Working in the shadow of death

Medical personnel say while the health ministry paints a rosy picture of its handling of the Covid-19 crisis, the reality on the frontlines is dire.

24 June 2021 | Health


· Clinics turned into hospitals

· Nurses working without PPEs

· Corpses lie next to patients for hours

· Male and female patients share rooms


“We are going to die with our patients” is the fatigued refrain by the country’s nurses and doctors as they battle for their own survival, leaving behind a trail of dead bodies and critically ill patients, to go into isolation.

Death continues to linger in the air in healthcare facilities, with many only fumigated once since the arrival of the Covid-19 virus on Namibian shores.

Fifteen months into the pandemic, healthcare professionals are still responding to the crisis, albeit with little support from their superiors.

They claim that the health ministry’s leadership paints a rosy picture regarding its handling of the pandemic.

But according to a registered nurse with more than 25 years’ experience, who – fearing victimisation - refused to be named, “the truth is that the soldiers on the battlefield are fighting with no ammunition while their pleas are ignored by the commanders”.

Some clinics have essentially been transformed into hospitals and forced to admit patients because “we cannot send our patients home without treating them”.

At local health facilities, the results of alleged poor planning is a horrible sight to behold as critically ill patients are forced to defecate and urinate in front of each other.

Trauma and stress levels have skyrocketed, with critically ill patients often nursing oxygen right next to corpses for hours on end before mortuary officials arrive to collect them.

“We are unable to move the corpse as we do not have room to move the corpse to,” the nurses said.

On the ground

Namibian Sun visited the Robert Mugabe, Khomasdal and Otjomuise clinics as well as the Katutura Health Centre to assess the situation.

From early morning, the lines of patients seeking treatment slowly moved along like hissing snakes at Robert Mugabe and Katutura Health Centre, where healthcare workers these days claim they have to do triple the amount of work they used to do before the advent of Covid-19.

Nurses have written several letters and complaints to health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula, yet their complaints fall on deaf ears.

In the latest letter written on Monday by nurses at Katutura Health Centre, they complained about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“We are using gowns that should be single use but at times we are forced to reuse it. Our N95 masks we have to wear for seven days, even now when we are being highly exposed on close proximity with Covid patients.

“We are unable to render care to our patients such as washing or assisting with their bath as our facility has no showers. It’s sad to be caring for patients knowing they have not brushed their teeth nor washed their face for five days,” they said.

They also informed the ministry’s management that male and female patients are mixed in rooms, with no space between the patients while their beds are cramped together, creating a perfect breeding ground for Covid-19 transmission.

At some clinics, which have now been turned into full-blown Covid-19 centres, patients - most of whom have body aches and pains - lay for days on non-adjustable examination beds as opposed to hospital beds.

The country’s health facilities remain critically understaffed despite numerous announcements by the health ministry that new staff have been recruited.

While the ministry has called in otherwise backbencher healthcare professionals to work 24-hour shifts as frontliners in the Covid-19 units, the situation remains grave.

Meanwhile, nurses at Katutura Health Centre boycotted work on Wednesday, leaving only a handful of staff to treat the hordes of sick patients.

No sight to behold

Now a half-way station for Covid-19 patients, Namibian Sun witnessed the horrible sight of critically ill patients lying on the cold floor without mattresses while waiting for oxygen.

While one man has his bed surrounded with oxygen cylinders, a woman ate her breakfast off the floor and another prayed softly as she cradled the nebuliser for oxygen.

Down the corridor, an abandoned oxygen mask is tied to the leg of an upturned table and one wonders whether the patient made it out alive or went up yonder.

With the advent of the third wave of Covid-19, screening rooms have been turned into patient wards and, as a result, cases are now consulted in the clinic’s hallway.

According to the nurses’ petition, they are on the brink of burnout.

“Due to being overworked and understaffed, we are overwhelmed and exhausted. We don’t even have resources to help make our work easier - from the HGT [hemo glucose test] and HB [hemoglobin] machine to the BP [blood pressure] machine. Our facility was only fumigated once in 2020, even after continuously reporting positive cases, and now treating them.

“We have families we go home to who we are highly afraid of infecting as we are not fully protected at work. We were never all trained fully and properly on care and handling of Covid cases and patients, yet we are to care and handle them. We are not paid or given a risk allowance… We are risking our lives and those of our families. Patients are dying at times because of lack of oxygen,” the nurses said.

Questions sent to the health ministry over the past week have gone unanswered.

[email protected]

Similar News


Swakop hotel hosts vaccination point

1 day - 30 July 2021 | Health

IRENE-MARI VAN DER WALT SWAKOPMUNDHotel Zum Kaiser in Swakopmund’s central business district (CBD) now accommodates a vaccination point in its conferencing facility.The...

AB InBev Namibia drives vaccination uptake through information campaign

1 day - 30 July 2021 | Health

Anheuser-Busch InBev Namibia Breweries (AB InBev Namibia), a proud member of the world’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, hosted vaccine information sessions in order to answer...

Another vaccination site for Walvis

2 days ago - 29 July 2021 | Health

LEANDREA LOUW WALVIS BAYWalvis Bay now boasts another permanent Covid-19 vaccination site at the Narraville Lutheran church hall.The site was officially opened...

Children using e-cigarettes more likely to smoke

2 days ago - 29 July 2021 | Health

ELLANIE SMITWINDHOEKThe tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than eight million people a year...

Covid: Come to work even if infected, ministry says

3 days ago - 28 July 2021 | Health

TUYEIMO HAIDULA OSHAKATIThe health ministry has ordered its staff members in the north to...

AstraZeneca keeps eluding Namibia

3 days ago - 28 July 2021 | Health

JEMIMA BEUKES WINDHOEKGovernment has expressed serious concern with the perpetual delays of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine delivery, which has now put the...

Khomas aims to vaccinate 286 641 by March 2022

3 days ago - 28 July 2021 | Health

NAMPAWINDHOEKKhomas governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua says the region has so far vaccinated 57 897 people and plans to vaccinate at least 286 641 by March next...

We are our brothers’ keepers – Howard-Smith

3 days ago - 28 July 2021 | Health

STAFF REPORTERSWAKOPMUNDErongo regional council chairperson Ciske Howard-Smith has declared the costs attached to the 15-bed Covid-19 care facility set up by her Covid Task Force.This...

Breathe Namibia continues lifesaving campaign

3 days ago - 27 July 2021 | Health

During the second week of the Breathe Namibia campaign, Oxygenators were delivered to first responders and to COVID-19 community support projects in Windhoek, Kamanjab, Grootfontein,...

Eating disorder behaviors modulate the brain's dopamine-related reward circuit...

4 days ago - 27 July 2021 | Health

Researchers have found that eating disorder behaviors, such as binge-eating, alter the brain's reward response process and food intake control circuitry, which can reinforce these...

Latest News

On the brink of burnout?...

1 day - 30 July 2021 | Business

Selma Shilunga 1. Talking about your feelings is importantWe often keep our true feelings bottled up, saying “I’m fine”, even when we’re really not....

Kristofine Itembu proves that the...

1 day - 30 July 2021 | Business

Rivaldo KavangaHailing from Onankali village in the Oshikoto Region and raised in the dusty streets of Soweto in Katutura, the career-driven Kristofine Itembu remains humble...

Pensioner loses N$50k to scammers...

1 day - 30 July 2021 | Crime

TUYEIMO HAIDULA OSHAKATI A 60-year-old retired teacher lost N$50 000 to scammers who pretended to be police officers on Monday...

Ex-general implicated in Ekandjo’s missing...

1 day - 30 July 2021 | Justice

Kenya Kambowe RUNDUFormer minister Jerry Ekandjo’s name has surfaced in court as one of the possible victims in a stock theft case in which former...

South Africa plans billions in...

1 day - 30 July 2021 | Economics

ALEXANDER WINNING AND WENDELL ROELFSouth Africa plans about R36 billion of relief measures to support businesses and individuals affected by unrest this month and by...

The man who works fast...

1 day - 30 July 2021 | Business

Sono Kahuure runs the network escalations department at Paratus Namibia and is the keyholder to unlocking solutions for his customers. Sono is the go-to man...

Taking sports development to the...

1 day - 30 July 2021 | People

Mariselle Stofberg Powerful play From growing up in the dusty streets of Okuryangava, Titus Mwahafa’s passion for sport and sports development has driven him...

“I imagined a better life...

1 day - 30 July 2021 | Business

Desiree GasesTST was founded in 2012 and is a full-service advertising and market research company combining qualitative and quantitative approaches to deliver rich, operational, and...

EDITORIAL: Fix Windhoek’s leadership mess

1 day - 30 July 2021 | Opinion

Windhoek is without political leadership. But that’s not the saddest part. The fact that, for a week, nothing concrete has been hammered out to restore...

Load More