Health services around the clock

The decision to extend the facility's operating hours is aimed at lightening the load on the nearby Katutura state hospital.

17 September 2019 | Health

The Katutura health centre, which offers a lifeline to thousands of people each year, will now be operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.

The decision to extend the facility's operating hours is expected to lessen the pressure on the nearby Katutura state hospital and improve healthcare services overall.

“One of the reasons we decided to provide 24/7 services here at Katutura health centre is to help decongest the Katutura state hospital, so that it may attend to more serious cases and emergencies,” health minister Kalumbi Shangula said at the official launch of the clinic's new operating hours yesterday.

The health centre offers crucial services, with more than 116 000 patients having been assisted during the 2018/19 financial year.

The clinic's operating hours also set it apart previously, as its doors used to close at 19:00 each day, after a 12-hour shift, unlike other clinics countrywide that close at 17:00.

“The ultimate objective remains that the health of our people and communities is improved and that they no longer have to travel to the Katutura hospital to access services after hours, especially if those services can be offered and obtained at this facility,” Shangula said.

The official launch yesterday followed a pilot test phase during August, in which medical staff at the centre attended to 3 159 patients.

Shangula pointed out that the pressure-testing phase was undertaken without any marketing or awareness-raising, and proved “beyond doubt that the services are needed and will be fully utilised”.

Situated in Katutura, the facility serves a catchment population of approximately 120 600 people.

Shangula emphasised that the Katutura state hospital is the only public health facility offering emergency care services 24 hours a day in the Windhoek district.

With hundreds of patients seeking care each day, especially during the night, when most emergency and trauma cases are seen, staff workloads have increased to concerning levels.

The ministry was concerned about staff burnout, quality of patient care and recordkeeping in the “highly congested and demanding corridors of the hospital”, the minister said.

The extension of operating hours at the healthcare centre is in response to a pledge to improve services, Shangula said.

“We believe that the reduction in congestion will enable our health workers to attend to patients better and improve the quality of patient care and recordkeeping, both here and at the Katutura hospital.”

Moreover, “despite fiscal constraints”, the ministry has allocated funding to recruit 26 additional health workers to enable the facility to operate around-the-clock.

These include two medical officers, eight registered nurses, eight enrolled nurses and eight pharmacy assistants. The facility provides non-emergency services at night, such as the screening of adults and children, follow-up treatments, family planning, stabilisation of emergency cases and more.

Shangula yesterday appealed to the community and medical staff to respect the clinic and what it offers.

The centre first opened its doors as a clinic in 1970, nearly 40 years ago. In 2000 it was upgraded to a health centre.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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