Government to use defence helicopters to airlift patients

05 Mar 2017 14:20pm
By Sawi Hausiku
RUNDU, 05 MAR (NAMPA) – Patients from the Katima Mulilo State Hospital and rural areas such as Tsumkwe and Gam, will now be flown to major hospitals by helicopters from the National Defence Force.
Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Bernard Haufiku, who visited the Rundu State Hospital to familiarise himself with the outreach programme there, told Nampa in an interview on Saturday the plan was approved.
“We now have an approval by Cabinet that patients from Katima to Rundu will be flown with an army helicopter instead of being transported by road.”
The minister said he is aware of logistical challenges and expectations that would ensue after such an announcement.
Haufiku said he was happy that in principle, Cabinet had approved this programme, although it would have to be managed carefully.
“We want to implement this as soon as possible, maybe in the first week of May this year, if all logistics are in place.”
He explained this would help the ministry to cut down on the long journeys by road, adding that the country had lost many lives on the road.
Haufiku said the airlifting of patients will also apply to those from Gam and Tsumkwe in the Otjozondjupa Region.
Patients, especially pregnant women with complicated labour, will be flown from Tsumkwe which is 300 kilometres and Gam, which is 400 kilometres from Grootfontein, to the nearest hospital.
The defence ministry, he said, had agreed to avail its helicopter from Grootfontein to pick up patients at Tsumkwe and Gam.
“The Ministry of Works and Transport has also availed its Learjet; Government has two Learjets and a falcon. The second Learjet is hardly used unless for business purposes,” he said.
Haufiku emphasised the aircrafts will be used to fly patients from remote areas, who require intensive care in Windhoek, from Katima, Lüderitz and towns further away.
The Learjet can only take two patients at a time while a helicopter takes up to four patients.
“The airlifting is a temporary solution because the facilities in the regions are not strong enough. We just want to curb [loss of] life because we have a relatively high maternal mortality rate,” he said.
Last week Thursday, Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Tjekero Tweya also spoke about Cabinet’s approval of the pilot project to airlift emergency maternal and neonatal cases, especially obstetrics, trauma and under-five paediatric cases, from across the country.
According to Tweya, the project is part of the Harambee Prosperity Plan, Pillar 3, under Social Progression.