Red tape holds up health professions bill

14 September 2017 | Government

JEMIMA BEUKES

A bill that will compel all doctors and specialists who have just graduated to work in state hospitals for the first five years of their careers has been held up by bureaucracy for over a year now.

Health minister Dr Bernard Haufiku says he is deeply disappointment with the snail’s pace at which the Health Professions Council Bill is moving.

According to him, the delay of the bill that was tabled and cleared by Cabinet in April 2016 and sent to the justice ministry the same year, is an impediment to the government’s vision to realise universal health coverage.

This bill, Haufiku says, will give the health minister the legal mandate to compel doctors, regardless of who funded their education, to deliver quality medical services to the poor in state hospitals across the country.

The shortage of medical staff at state facilities across the country, and particularly in rural areas, has been widely reported on for years.

“[Doctors] can refuse. We cannot send a doctor to Okongo hospital, they can refuse and there is nothing I can do. Most of them want to work in Windhoek. The reason why the health sector is so unequal is because of money,” Haufuku says.

The attorney-general, Sacky Shanghala, confirmed that he had received the draft bill a month ago.

“But I cannot tell you when I will be done with it. You know it is not the only thing that I am busy with,” he said.

Haufiku added that a number of bills, including the Mental Health, Hospital and Health Facility Amendment Bill and Safety Bill, are still works in progress.

Nurses

Meanwhile, Haufiku has dispelled fears that the new graduate nurses who will take over from non-Namibians are not experienced enough.

Last month, the health ministry announced the suspension of recruitment of non-Namibian nurses to make way for the first batch of nurses who graduated this year, including specialist nurses in areas such as psychiatric nursing, advanced midwifery and paediatric nursing.

According to Haufiku, the transition will be done gradually until the Namibian nurses are sufficiently experienced.

He also pointed out that this is not an anti-Zimbabwean or anti-Kenyan strategy but a way for the country to benefit from its resources.

“Can you imagine if your daughter or son graduated and came home to Namibia and there was no space because the space was occupied by an expatriate?

“It just does not make sense. In fact when we called in expatriates it was on the understanding that they were helping out Namibia on a contract basis while Namibia was strengthening its own human resources,” Haufiku explained.

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