RUNDU - In May 2014, construction of the new maternity ward at the Rundu Intermediate Hospital was started with the aim of improving maternity services in the Kavango East Region. But, four years later, the construction is yet to be finalised and this is due to delays resulting from a dispute between the Ministry of Health and Social Services and the contractor, according to the Permanent Secretary in the health ministry, Ben Nangombe.
The long awaited new building which had a construction budget of N$28 million in 2014 was supposed to bring to an end a situation where women in labour and those who have given birth, together with their babies, are accommodated on the floor of the facility due to a lack of space.
Nangombe told New Era that the final construction touches of the building were placed on halt due to the dispute. According to Nangombe, the contractor did not finish the work on time in the initial contract and demanded more money, claiming that prices of certain items had escalated.
“With regard to Rundu Maternity Ward, the long dispute has been resolved. The tender process for installation of medical gases and solar hot water installation has been adjudicated and a letter of award for the solar water heater installation has been drafted,” explained Nangombe.
Nangombe further said that the ministry has requested for increase in the contract amount by approximately N$5.8 million to incorporate additional works for the theatre and neonatal unit as per the new standards of the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
The building has also been criticised for being of substandard. “The defective works by the contractor will be remedied upon instructions and authorisation to proceed with works with increased contract sum by Central Procurement Board,” Nangombe said.
Nangombe also noted that the ministry retained 10 percent of the contract in case the contractor fails to remedy defective works. Should that happen, the funds will be available to appoint other “persons to remedy such works”, added the Permanent Secretary.
Over the years, the Rundu hospital has been notorious for its overcrowded maternity ward and the new ward was expected to ease the overcrowded old maternity ward, an issue the public has complained cynically about over the years.
When visiting the maternity ward, there are scenes of mothers with their newborn babies sleeping on mattresses on the floor, which people say should not be happening 28 years after independence.
The ward was supposed to have its own administration block, a 200-bed capacity unit, an isolation unit, a premature birth unit, two theatres, six delivery rooms and a full antenatal care unit.
The current maternity ward at the Rundu hospital only has a bed capacity of 30 and is too small to accommodate all the expectant mothers seeking care and those who have given birth. The building was planned to be handed over by the end of April 2016.