Nothing wrong with poor staffing -Kavetuna
Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Juliet Kavetuna, told The Villager that there is nothing wrong with clinics in marginalised areas having four employees servicing more than 7 000 patients. This follows revelations that the Oshaango clinic in Eenhana only operates with three nurses and one doctor, with the latter visiting the clinic on a monthly basis.
The revelation was particularly alarming because the clinic in the Ohangwena region caters to an area with approximately 7000 inhabitants. It currently treats 774 patients with Anti-Retroviral (ARV) medication.
“Nurses are trained the same way that doctors are. They are qualified to treat and give prescriptions for medicine,” she claimed. She added that it is only in dire cases when the nurses cannot help a patient that they wait for the doctor to come during the outreach programs to treat a patient.
He added that Oshaango is thus considered one of the lucky ones because it has three nurses.
Kavetuna said it is standard practice in Namibia for clinics to have at least two nurses and one doctor who visits the clinic for outreach programs. The nurses are also compelled to refer patients to district hospitals when they cannot treat a patient and the doctor is not around for the outreach program.
The Deputy Minister reiterated that only hospitals have an excess of doctors. Clinics do not because it is not common practice.
A report by Auditor-General Junias Kandjeke on a performance audit done from 2006-2008 revealed that due to the unavailability of health workers in the country, some clinics only have one nurse.
The recommended number is two nurses for a single clinic: one registered nurse and one enrolled nurse. The report also confirmed that there is a shortage of staff in local hospitals and clinics due to the lack of health professionals in the country.
The 2006-08 study further revealed that the ministry was unable to meet its recruitment deadlines. A vacant post in MOHSS is supposed to be filled in four months. But at the time of the study, it took up to 14 months to fill promotional posts and/or recruit foreigners.
Kavetuna said her ministry was currently working to rectify the issue of understaffed clinics and hospitals. “We are the 99% recruiter of graduates from institutions which are training nurses,” she noted, adding her optimism that they would soon have an influx of nurses to recruit from several local institutions.
She listed the University of Namibia’s (UNAM) School of Medicine, the International University of Management (IUM) and the Welwitchia University as among the institutions where they recruit medical professionals.
Kavetuna said it was important to note that Namibia was still recruiting health professionals such as doctors and nurses through bilateral agreements with other African states. Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe are among the countries from where they recruit.
“We are working on closing the gap. We are also expecting a large number of doctors to be graduating soon from amongst our students who are studying in Russia and China,” she enthused.
Queried on whether or not she thought the health sector was underfunded, Kavetuna said she was aware where the funding for the health sector was coming from, and it would suffice in the meantime.
“Namibia signed the Abuja Declaration, and we are adhering to it because the current health budget is between 11% and 12% of the government’s annual budget,” she explained. The Abuja Declaration, which was signed in 2001 by African Union (AU) states, was an increase to their respective governments’ funding for the health sector by 15% of the annual budget.
By 2011, the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that only one country had reached that target. Twenty-six had increased the portion of their governments’ expenditure allocated towards health and eleven had reduced their portion, while nine others did not have a noticeable positive or negative change.
Kavetuna said it is her ministry’s main objective to ensure the provision of quality health services for the people of this country every year.
by Faith Haushona-Kavamba