Nangombe opens up about health ministry

In a no-holds-barred speech, health executive director Ben Namgombe has spoken frankly about his ministry's challenges.

05 August 2019 | Ministries

The health ministry is considering renting medical equipment from suppliers because it cannot afford to buy.

A year after he took up the position of executive director in the ministry, Ben Nangombe told the media that if the ministry has no money, it is unable to implement any of its projects. He described it as the “weakest link in the chain”.

The ministry, with one of the largest budgetary allocations, at N$6.4 billion this year, last year received a qualified audit opinion.

Nagombe emphasised that human resources are the heart of the ministry but added that there is a tendency to make people feel “less valuable”.

“We need to admit it and we need to work on it.”

Nangombe said the prime minister's office had been approached to fill vacancies and 140 interns were placed. The ministry hopes that the private healthcare sector will appoint those graduates who could not be accommodated by the public sector.

One positive is the new Katutura Health Centre which will soon be open to the public 24 hours a day. Nangombe said maintenance is becoming problematic for the ministry. Certain facilities are so old that maintenance can no longer be effectively performed.

He made reference to the Maltahöhe clinic, built in 1951.

“The only option now is to destroy the building and build a new one,” he said, adding that there is no budget for that.

He described the availability and procurement of medicines as “problematic”.

Nangombe expressed optimism that a turnaround strategy at the Central Medical Stores, which should be operational by the end of this year, would solve this problem.

With regard to the effective distribution of medical supplies, Nangombe said these are often available in regional warehouses or the central stores, but are not ordered on time.

He referred to a clinic that dispensed medication wrapped in newspapers because it had no pill bags in stock. At the time, there were two million bags a few kilometres away in Oshakati.

A similar incident happened when the Robert Mugabe clinic in Windhoek ran out of medical passports although the Central Medical Stores, only a few kilometres away, had plenty in stock.

“We need to strengthen our coordination efforts. The basics must be done correctly.

And before you make allusions, first confirm that it is indeed so.”

Nangombe cited the example of a specific size of surgical gloves that was out of stock.

“How do we allow ourselves to get to a point where there is no stock? We are working with people's lives and our administration must allow doctors to be in a position to do what they have to do. Those items, which are so easily purchased, are permitted as easily to run out of stock. We are running around putting out fires on a daily basis. This is not good for us and not good for our country.”

In reference to the removal of coffee and tea from hospital menus, which saves the ministry N$60 million, Nangombe said tea and coffee make no contribution to the nutritional value of the menu.

He described procurement and tenders as the “elephant in the room” and said it was too tempting to be corrupt.

“Procedures must be perfected and the law applied. I do not want to hear about suspect transactions. All processes must be fully transparent.”

In this regard, the ministry has started advertising tenders on its website and also announces the outcome on the same site, “so that people can see what we are doing.”

HENRIETTE LAMPRECHT

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