Oshakati hospital rundown, understaffed

19 September 2019 | Health

The 750-bed Oshakati Intermediary Hospital, which serves close to a million patients a year, is operating without a paediatrician, neonatologist, neurosurgeon, dietician, clinical psychologist and other specialists.

Health minister Kalumbi Shangula is calling on the private sector to help address a crisis at the hospital, where many of the diagnostic machines are out of order and red tape is causing delays in replacing or repairing them.

This was said at the handover of medical equipment by the First National Bank of Namibia (FNB) and the commissioning of a fluoroscopy machine at the northern referral hospital.

The hospital's medical superintendent, Dr Korbinian Vizcaya Amutenya, said the hospital, which serves over a million people in all the northern regions and southern Angola, is in a critical situation.

The hospital's CT scanner, fluoroscopy, mammogram, magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA), digital X-ray and C-Arm medical imaging devices are among the equipment that has been out of order for quite some time, Amutenya said.

Because of that, the hospital has to send patients to Windhoek, or in urgent cases to expensive private hospitals for imaging studies.

The staff are overburdened and demoralised, he added.

“The fluoroscopy has been removed from this list, but I have to tell you that the mammogram is not yet here, the MRA is not yet here, the CT scanner is broken and the supplier is not coming to repair it due to outstanding payments.

“When these items are not here, they have a serious financial implication for the ministry because one has to go and get these services elsewhere and it's costly,” Amutenya said.

Shangula said the government had spent more than N$5 million on replacing the fluoroscopy device that had broken in 2011 and other equipment would also be replaced.

“The government of the Republic of Namibia is committed to the provision of quality healthcare to the Namibian people and that is the reason money was made available to acquire the fluoroscopy. For other medical equipment highlighted by the superintendent, the government will do its best to make sure that all the services will be finally offered at the hospital,” Shangula said.

“This cannot be done by the ministry alone, but everybody, including corporate institutions, can make their contributions.”

Amutenya said the machines are breaking down because the Oshakati hospital is a referral hospital for all the district hospitals in the Oshana, Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshikoto, Kavango and Kunene regions. Angolan healthcare services also refer patients there.

It is reported that the hospital provides healthcare to more than 950 000 people.

“All these patients are coming to us, but the equipment that we have is not commensurate with the demand. For example, the CT scanner that broke is designed to make only about 200 000 sorties before replacing the tube, but because of the demand, when ours broke it had made more than 500 000 sorties,” Amutenya explained.

“We are supposed to have at least two or three scanners so that they can operate smoothly, but since we are in a resource-limited setting we have to work with what we can afford.”