23 August 2000

Namibia: Onandjokwe Hospital in Dire Need of Help

ONANDJOKWE — On top of being desperately understaffed, the Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital near Ondangwa - considered to be the fourth largest in the country - is having to deal with an alarming rate of HIV-AIDS related cases.

Superintendent Professor Filemon Amaambo revealed last week that most of the deaths recorded at the hospital were related directly to AIDS.

Doctor Tarek Mequid, a volunteer at the hospital, said the facility was also struggling to keep pace with the rate at which the maternity ward were being utilised. "We have a birth rate of 4 000 babies per year at this hospital and right now there is no indication that we are going to see a decrease in births [here]. The unfortunate thing is that almost 25 per cent of the mothers of these babies are either HIV- positive or suffering from full-blown AIDS," a clearly distressed Mequid pointed out.

He also noted that the ratio of patients to nurses was alarming because at night 40 to 70 patients in each ward were being taken care of by only two nurses.

Onandjokwe is regarded as the fourth largest hospital in Namibia - after Windhoek Central, Katutura and the Oshakati State hospitals. Onandjokwe, which employs just 17 medical doctors, has 450 in-patients and treats about the same number of out-patients on a daily basis.

Said Superintendent Amaambo: "There is a gross, disturbing imbalance of doctor-patient ratio at this hospital. Our doctors and nursing staff are totally overworked. I do not know how the situation is going to improve in the foreseeable future because of the scarcity of doctors, which is a prevalent problem that is badly affecting the profession in the whole of Namibia."

Amaambo explained that the waiting time for a patient to see a doctor varied from between three to four hours because of the hundreds of people who streamed to the hospital every day.

"The demand for service is higher than we can meet at the moment. Taking the huge numbers into consideration it is simply not possible to provide everybody with the quality service which they expect."

"And the way that the resources (whether financial or medical) are distributed is also improper. I would like to suggest that the Ministry of Health consider a different scoring system from the one it is using now. The distribution of resources to hospitals should be done by looking at the number of patients and the factor of distance should also be considered," he advised.

With some of its original buildings - built by Finnish missionaries as early as 1908 - in bad need of repair, the gloomy state of the Onandjokwe Hospital cannot be overemphasised.

Amambo suggested that foreign countries which provided assistance for development projects should also consider scholarships for local students who wanted to study to be medical practitioners.

To add to the woes of Onandjokwe, the hospital's only pharmacist, Christoph Bonsmann, is set to return to his native Germany after completing a three-year spell as a volunteer worker in Namibia.

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