Negligence cases pile up

09 October 2018 | Health

The Health Professions Councils of Namibia (HPCN) currently have 30 pending cases of unprofessional conduct, the majority of which are related to maternal healthcare.

This was confirmed by deputy registrar Crispin Mafwila on the side-lines of the inauguration of the new Health Professions Councils last week.

“These are cases cleared for hearings for unprofessional conduct. Unprofessional conduct is a term which includes negligence and all those areas,” he said.

Mafwila said the public can complain directly to the councils, alternatively the health ministry can submit complaints received by it.

“Some of them have been dragging for a long time but those that are too old, we cleared them. Now the newer ones that are coming along for three or four years which are still pending really need to be finalised, the public is waiting for these cases to be finalised,” he said.

Health minister Bernard Haufiku last week announced that the budget of the HPCN would be increased by N$10 million.

This comes after numerous pleas from the councils for a bigger budget.

According to Mafwila the councils' annual budget is N$67 million. The councils generate N$10 million and have received a mere N$20 million from the ministry for the last three years.

“The money is important because when cases are cleared for hearing, one hearing takes five days. For one hearing it costs us N$450 000. It is costly, because we do it on behalf of the public and we have to pay the lawyer who takes on that case,” said Mafwila.



'Slaughterhouses'

In May 2012, following the death of Juliana Kleopas (41) and her newborn baby at the Katutura state hospital, former president Hifikepunye Pohamba went on a tirade over negligent hospital deaths.





Pohamba called on health workers, especially nurses, to take their work very seriously and save the lives of the people who go to clinics and hospitals for treatment.

He told permanent secretaries at State House that the deplorable incidents of deaths at clinics and state hospitals caused by sheer negligence on the part of some health workers and nurses should not be tolerated.

“We must not, and will not, tolerate such recklessness on the part of those who are duty bound to serve our citizens,” Pohamba said at the time.

“We expect health workers to display positive attitude towards the patients and to help create a conducive working environment.

“The state of disrepair of hospital buildings must be addressed soonest, including unhygienic conditions in and around our hospitals, as well as the living quarters of nurses and doctors.”

His stern warning came in the wake of several deaths of mothers and their babies at the Katutura hospital in the preceding months that sent shockwaves through the country.

Maternal deaths in the country almost doubled between 1992 and 2006 from 225 to 449 per 100 000 live births. Infant deaths increased from 38 per 1000 births in 2000 to 46 per 1000 births in 2006.

Pohamba appointed a presidential commission of inquiry into the state of the country's public healthcare sector in August 2012.

The commission's report was tabled in parliament in 2013. A big issue at the time was sector is nurses' attitudes towards patients, with many patients complaining of not being treated well by health workers. In its report, the commission said nurses claimed they were overworked or “burned out”, and that was one of the main causes of their bad behaviour.

JEMIMA BEUKES

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