Top dentist tells Haufiku to quit

Namibia's top dentist has accused the health ministry of failing to plan for its human resources needs.

07 June 2018 | Government

While admitting his frustrations with the health ministry are coming on for over a decade, the country's former chief dentist, Dr Panduleni Itula, has called on the current minister, Dr Bernhard Haufiku, to resign, if he does not heed his advice.

In a scathing letter Itula wrote to Haufiku, prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, justice minister Sacky Shanghala and attorney-general Albert Kawana, he accused Haufiku of acting outside his jurisdiction by appointing an interim Health Professions Council.

Itula also believes the ministry's dental internship programme is a flop.

This follows the announcement by Haufiku a fortnight ago that his ministry has scraped together N$3.7 million to arrange internships for 27 dentistry graduates.

At the same event Haufiku also announced he has appointed an interim Health Professions Council of Namibia, until the Health Professions Bill is approved and signed into law.

According to Itula, this is unlawful and said he has warned the health ministry for many years now, even before Haufiku took office, that the Medical and Dental Act of 2004 does not make provision for this.

“An interim measure of an entity as yet not promulgated into law is unlawful and lawmakers can't be lawbreakers.

The (health) ministers, by failing to provide relevant secondary laws in time since 2004, have left the entire health professionals unregulated in an unprecedented manner.”

At some institutions providing continuing professional development in this, clearly heralds a loss of earnings for these institutions,” he said.

According to Itula, there is no single dental institution in Namibia with all the necessary dental departments to provide the full range of undergraduate clinical skills and competence training for students, who never extracted or filed a tooth throughout their five years in foreign training.

The graduates who have to go undergo a six-month remedial course, in order to be approved for internship, studied in Russia, Ukraine, China and Belarus.

“Various students, especially from Ukraine, attested to the fact that they do not treat any Ukrainian patient at all during the five-year course in dentistry. The qualifications obtained by these students do not allow them to be registered in Ukraine, specifically, nor allows them to practice such a profession in those countries, as the Medical and Dental Act of 2004 stipulates,” said Itula.

Itula also took a swipe at the ministry's chief dentist Dr John Ruta, saying he is not qualified.

According to him Ruta is also not qualified for the post in his home country of Tanzania, and has he reportedly never trained a single undergraduate dentist in his entire life.

“The minister continues to rely on dental advice from a Tanzanian chief dentist, who with a basic dental undergraduate bachelor's degree is not even appropriately qualified to be a chief dentist in his own country, when there are Namibians more qualified and experienced,” Itula charged.

He also accused the ministry of failing to plan for its human resources needs.

“Thirty undergraduate students will complete their training this year, from the listed countries and 55 will do so in 2019, with 50 coming from Cuba in three to four years. In four years' time we will have 230 qualified dentists, excluding those being trained at Unam. That does not show a ministry that is planning for the human resource needs of Namibia,” said Itula.

He added that self-determination was the goal of the country's liberation struggle and not determination by foreign nationals, who have no interest in the Namibian people.

“Should the minister ignore this advice I shall and am calling for his resignation in the public interest? It is time the honourable minister is advised he as a civil responsibility and that he failed the dental profession and should consider throwing in the towel,” he said.

Haufiku refused to comment.

Ruta said he cannot comment on Itula's allegations, because the letter was not written to him.

“I cannot start a dialogue with him, you can speak to the ministry, who as my employer can explain my appointment,” he said.


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