Government sees Covid silver lining

Investments in public healthcare forced by the coronavirus will benefit Namibians in future.

17 September 2020 | Health

JEMIMA BEUKES

WINDHOEK



Namibia's post-Covid-19 health system is likely to set the country on track towards a universal healthcare system, given the generous investments during the pandemic response.

These are the sentiments of the health ministry's executive director, Ben Nangombe, who says the country has in just six months increased its number of isolation beds from four to over 1 200 for mild Covid-19 cases.

The ministry had only six intensive care unit (ICU) beds at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.

He added that the ministry has also acquired an additional 64 isolation beds for critical and severe cases.

“We are now looking at bringing online a total of 1 300 more beds for moderate cases. We planned to initially procure for the Covid-19 response only, to buy 100 ventilators, so far about 94 have been delivered. In terms of that matrix, we have done fairly well,” he said.

Investments

Nangombe added that the ministry has recruited a wide range of health professionals and has gone way above the target of 2 605 to recruit more than 2 900 health professionals.

“If we are to link the investment that we have made in Namibia because of Covid and link to other disease, we will see post-Covid we would have reached a serious level of health system strengthening,” he said.

According to him this is in particularly seen in the facilities that the government has established, such as isolation facilities that are being built all over the country.

Nangombe said these facilities will eventually be linked to the existing infrastructure in order to serve the nation.

“It will be possible for us to convert these facilities into ICU facilities so the capacity for ICU in Namibia per population will increase significantly. However, a ventilator will not help you if you do not have an experienced person able to operate that piece of equipment,” he said.



Weaknesses exposed

The latest UNAids report states that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the inadequacy of investments in public health.

The report also highlights that the pandemic has exposed the persistence of profound economic and social inequalities and the fragility of many global systems and approaches.

According to this report all of Africa has fewer than 2 000 working ventilators, compared to 140 000 in the United States.

It also states that the population-based density of physicians in low-income countries is one-tenth the density in high income countries.

The report further says that the pandemic is not only directly causing high morbidity and mortality, but also disrupting essential systems for health and undermining programmes to address HIV and other global health priorities.



Silver lining

On the other hand, though, the report found that unlike with the outbreak of HIV pandemic, where infrastructure had to be built from scratch, the Covid-19 responses have the potential to piggyback on HIV infrastructure.

One of these include the laboratory systems that have been vastly expanded and improved as a result of HIV investments.

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