Popular Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani has said some medical doctors employed by the State have their bread buttered on both sides, to the detriment of ordinary Namibians.
Information obtained by PDM through a sting operation suggests there are 32 medical doctors employed on a full-time basis by the State, but run their private medical practices concurrently.
In addition, Namibia’s official opposition also used Monday’s press conference to again seek an audience with President Hage Geingob on burning national issues.
The ailing health and education sectors, urban housing and controversial tender awards reign superior in Venaani’s list of priorities to the head of state.
According to Venaani, the implicated doctors are available to the government for less than two days a week.
“They are earning free salaries from the State. They are running big practices outside. We know their names. But we are calling on government to stop this health rot where key specialists are on full scale salaries [while] these doctors are running private practices. They are 90% of their time at private practices while junior doctors are left to fend for patients,” he revealed.
Venaani refused to disclose the names of the purported culprits.
Instead, he challenged health minister Kalumbi Shangula to come clean on the allegation, if they are untrue.
“Let me study the content [of the allegation] and see if it warrants a response,” Shangula retorted.
While acknowledging loopholes in the ministry’s monitoring of health specialists, Shangula said the onus is on Venaani, or anyone to come forth with information.
“The specialists themselves are also required to fully comply with the terms and conditions of their contracts. The ministry does not condone any non-compliance. We welcome information about non-compliance by any staff member so that such non-compliance can be dealt with in terms of the Public Service Act, the staff rules and other relevant regulations,” Shangula said.
He also clarified misconceptions around specialists in the ministry’s employment and how the concept was birthed, at the back of a prolonged shortage of medical doctors and health professionals.
A presidential commission into the affairs of the Ministry of Health and Social Services in 2012 recommended that the ministry initiate intensive training of health professionals in different disciplines. About 60 specialists in different domains who are now deployed in public hospitals, were trained in the process.
However, the has faced an uphill battle to retain medical specialists, who often leave the public service for the more lucrative perks offered by the private sector.
As a retention strategy, the Office of the Prime Minister instituted an intervention the ‘limited private practice (LPP)’.
Through the LPP, specialists employed by the State are authorised to operate their own practices.
The operation of such practices, Shangula added, is contingent on an agreed framework whereby the specialist operating a private practice is required to work for a specified number of hours for the State.
“They work either two, three or five hours per day,” Shangula explained.
“In terms of managing the compliance aspects and ensuring that the specialists keep their end of the bargain, the management teams of hospitals where the specialists are stationed, are required to ensure compliance,” he said.
Currently, the work of specialists operating private practices is regulated and managed by hospitals in terms of work schedules and performance agreements.
“These have started in earnest at the Windhoek Central Hospital complex,” he said.
Meanwhile, referral hospitals have also started to appoint heads of departments to assist hospital superintendents with the supervision and monitoring of health professionals.
“It is possible that during the implementation of the agreements, some of the specialists may spend more time with their private patients than with the State patients,” the minister further asserted.
At the moment, permission for specialist doctors to operate limited private practices is authorised by the Public Service Commission.
“Currently, the challenges facing the ministry are exacerbated by the fact that the demand far outstrips the supply and this exerts pressure on the public health system,” Shangula conceded.
Venaani also wants Geingob to cancel the contentious N$650 million tender awarded to among others companies linked to businessman Shapwa Kanyama.
“[Whether the] process of the tender award is concluded or not, the President must intervene and stop the N$650 million tender in this country,” Venaani said.
Venaani fervently believes that the government has its priorities wrong if it considers procuring condoms and surgical gloves for over N$600 million a priority.
“The President or the government that he leads cannot justify it. There is no economic sense, or political sense to spend N$650 million on gloves and condoms while you have a health crisis where you have blood pressure medication depleted, infrastructure lapses or where you have kids going to schools while the rain is raining them wet,” he lamented.
Whether or not the tender awarding process is beyond reproach is immaterial, he continued.
“Why spend close to a billion on condoms in a society where 1.5 million of its citizens are living below the breadline… President Geingob, use your conscience as a leader of this country to revoke the contract forthwith,” the seasoned politician requested. -firstname.lastname@example.org
Caption: Double dipping… PDM president McHenry Venaani says around 32 doctors are collecting salaries from the State, while doing little in return.
Photo: Emmency Nuukala