Prayers instead of meds

Some Pentecostal pastors are being accused of telling state patients they should abandon their lifesaving medication and rather depend on prayers.

13 July 2018 | Local News

Health ministry permanent secretary Petronella Masabane has lifted the veil on how so-called church leaders are discouraging patients from taking their lifesaving medication.

She also confirmed the ministry has banned loud and noisy church services and prayer sessions at state health facilities, saying they are disruptive and infringe on the rights of others.

“I say so-called, because a true church leader will not be so irresponsible as to put people's lives at risk. It is not only happening at the Windhoek Central Hospital, but everywhere. It is also not only at hospitals, but even at church gatherings,” she said.

This was one of the main issues to emerge during visits by the parliamentary standing committee on gender equality, led by Swapo MP Ida Hoffmann, to several state hospitals and clinics in the Khomas Region.

According to Hoffmann, doctors at the Windhoek Central Hospital reached out to the parliamentarians to intervene, as a number of critically ill patients are refusing to take their medication, on the advice of local Pentecostal pastors.

“The main issue that stood out at the central hospital in particular is the churches that flock to the hospitals. The doctors told us that they try their best with their patients, but the pastors tell them that they are praying for them, so there is no need for them to take medication. And as a result these people's health deteriorate and some of them eventually die,” said Hoffmann.

According to her, other issues putting a strain on healthcare is the dire shortage of nurses and doctors at public health facilities.

Hoffmann also expressed concern over the state of some clinics, which have exceeded their lifespan and have poor infrastructure.

“At some places there are really very ugly cracks and it is worrisome because you never know when something can fall apart. Many of the clinics and hospitals are also very old buildings,” she said.

The standing committee is currently compiling their observations and will table a report in the National Assembly during its next session.

“We will even extend an invitation to health minister Bernard Haufiku to sit down with the gender committee, so we can discuss these issues,” said Hoffmann.

Ombudsman John Walters said it is sad that some people can still be so naive to believe these irresponsible pastors.

He urged the health ministry to reinforce security at state facilities, in order to make sure that scrupulous church leaders are not allowed into hospitals.

“It is unbelievable. I want to tell those people that God only helps those people who help themselves by taking their medication. I cannot believe that people can still be influenced like this, in this modern age,” he said.

The committee that was split into two groups visited the Otjomuise clinic, the Robert Mugabe clinic, the Windhoek central and Katutura state hospitals, the Maxuilili clinic, the Katutura clinic, as well as the Groot-Aub and Dordabis clinics.

As recently as last year, Haufiku strongly condemned self-proclaimed prophets and traditional doctors, who claim to have the power to cure diseases such as HIV/Aids.

Haufiku told community members in the Oshana Region that people with illnesses should seek help from medical facilities and not from “prophets”.

“Why don't we think for ourselves, as someone will be making money from you by telling you lies. Many people have died of HIV, not because of the virus but because they were told lies by a prophet that came from wherever into Namibia to make money, telling people that he or she can heal you with prayers and that you should stop taking your medication,” Haufiku said at the time.

He was speaking at the inauguration of the Eloolo clinic.

“We are being crooked and lied to by these people and we are still believing in them… we have to stop this nonsense,” he said.

The minister also made reference to advertisements for “magic bullet” remedies purported to cure a variety of ailments.

Haufiku said he would engage with the information ministry and the Health Professions Councils of Namibia to stop of any form of medical advertisement in the mainstream media.


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