29 March 2011

Namibia: Doctors Fed Up With Failing System

Doctors working for the Ministry of Health say the system is failing them and their patients.

At a meeting called by Health Minister Richard Kamwi yesterday, doctors said the mountain of challenges faced by Namibia's State health system are linked to administrative problems as well as a lack of comprehensive standards.

After listening to a torrent of problems doctors at the meeting talked about, Minister Kamwi admitted that he is aware that "some Namibians are dying because there are some doctors who cannot take care of simple cases".

The Minister was responding to incidents when patients are referred to Windhoek in cases that should be handled on the spot and as a result critical care is delayed unnecessarily.

The Ministry is bracing itself for claims to the tune of N$4,5 million against it over the next three years. The latest Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) shows that N$1,5 million per year has been budgeted from 2011-14 for legal actions against the State.

At yesterday's meeting, referrals from district and regional hospitals by doctors who "lack skill and experience" were listed as one of the major problems in the sector.

Doctors at the meeting said a lot of medical slip-ups at hospitals are the result of doctors from a foreign country whose credentials are unclear.

"Doctors come here and we don't know if their papers are genuine or not," a doctor said.

In addition, doctors say they are worried about a lack of comprehensive medical standards to which foreign doctors need to adhere when employed at Namibian hospitals.

"It's a jungle. They mistreat our patients," a concerned Namibian doctor told Kamwi yesterday.

She added that it is necessary that doctors appointed in Namibia should "be screened to check if they really can do the job".

Another doctor pointed out that Namibia lacks a comprehensive medical standard that should be applied when foreign or young, newly graduated doctors are appointed.

"As a country we need to have a standard in which you assess doctors who come in to work."

She warned that in countries where standards are regulated "no Tom, Dick and Harry can walk into the country and decide to set up shop".

One of the doctors at the meeting noted that newly qualified doctors in Namibia are able to "go into the private sector - where they take sole responsibility for patients". She said it is critical that Namibia create regulations for monitoring new doctors.

The issue of work permits, and the relative ease with which foreign doctors receive a permit to stay in the country as a private clinician, was raised.

"They come from outside, and then they go into the private sector," a doctor said.

A doctor told Kamwi that the lack of Namibian doctors in senior positions is linked to requirements that cannot be met by local doctors when applying for a position.

In addition, doctors are concerned that when training is given on a specific subject, either clinically or managerial, the trained personnel are then moved from that position, causing a continuous vacuum of trained staff.

Equipment bought without consulting the people who will work with it often leads to "money wasted", as the equipment is either outdated or doesn't fit the requirements of a department, a doctor said.

The Health and Social Services Ministry gets the third biggest chunk of the budget over the next three years, getting about N$10 billion over the MTEF.

Additional reporting by Jo-Maré Duddy

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