The Otjozondjupa Region has reclassified the Otjiwarongo State Hospital into an intermediate referral hospital because it is a high motor vehicle accident zone.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) had submitted the motivation to reclassify the hospital to Cabinet, which recently approved it. This becomes the fourth referral hospital in Namibia after Katutura in Windhoek, Oshakati and Rundu Intermediate hospitals.
Health minister Dr Richard Kamwi also recently called for the upgrading of Keetmanshoop Hospital to a B-class facility so that it becomes a referral hospital for that region, as well.
The entire Otjozondjupa Region now has a total of 20 primary healthcare facilities including three health centres, 18 clinics and four district hospitals in Grootfontein, Okahandja, Okakarara and Otjiwarongo.
Chief health programme administrator of the Otjozondjupa Regional Directorate, Mary Muyenga, has confirmed the latest developments furthering that without a referral hospital, pregnant women from [especially] Tsumkwe had resorted to giving birth at home because of the scarcity of medical resources in their vicinity.
This, she believes, had also been leading to the sudden increase in the mortality rate in children under the age of five, because of the complicated delivery-related deaths in the region.
“Some of the reasons given by the mothers for delivering at home is, they had nowhere to stay [that was near a hospital] while waiting to go into labour. The distance from Tsumkwe to Grootfontein Hospital is about 400km of gravel road,” Muyenga adds.
The HIV prevalence rate among pregnant women in Otjozondjupa Region, which had steadily dropped since 2002, also began rising from 12.8% in 2010 to 15.5% last year.
As things stand, Government remains under pressure to establish referral hospitals in every region, as the current ones are often overcrowded with patients from other regions. The Oshakati State Hospital alone currently serves more than 800 000 people who reside in all the northern regions. The Katutura State Hospital, on the other hand, acts as a national referral hospital, as all the other referral hospitals in Namibia refer patients to it.
“But the referral system does not function effectively due to the failure to finalise the referral policy since the initial audit report,” states the Auditor-General Junias Kandjeke in his recent audit report on referral hospitals in Namibia.
According to Kandjeke, the lack of regular in-service training and visits by specialists to health facilities is causing a high number of referrals to the Windhoek Central Hospital (WCH), “causing increased transport costs and longer response times due to vast distances between the regions and the WCH.”