20 June 2012

Namibia: Nurses Implicated in Hospital Scam

Windhoek — Some nurses and cleaners at the Katutura and Windhoek Central hospitals allegedly steal hospital essentials such as sanitation pads for female patients and drugs, baby formula and nappies that the State procures for newly-born babies.

According to well-placed sources in the maternity wards of the two hospitals, the theft has been going on for some time now and the culprits are well-known and yet enjoy protection from higher-ups.

However, New Era was unable to establish whether the stolen items are sold to the public or whether it is for personal use.

Although the sources could not point to a specific incident, they claim that a coterie of individuals involved in the scam collude to obtain the items, which are sold on a thriving black market.

"These people take the drugs depending on who is working a particular shift. They then take the medication and you don't know how to order again. These things are really happening," asserted a source.

"Those are things that happen. Like in any other job the temptation is there," said another source.

Approached for comment yesterday, the chief control registered nurse at the Katutura State Hospital, Martha Tobias, could not confirm the allegations. She explained that two police operations were carried out this year, "one in May and the other in January or February" to search hospital staff for any stolen items.

"We did not find any nurse or any person with nappies or drugs. The non- availability of stock is not necessarily because of theft," Tobias said.

She explained that sometimes it could be that the supplier did not deliver on time. She hinted at the possibility that institutional workers could be involved in the practice.

The only incident related to the allegations, said Tobias, took place about four years ago when the Windhoek City Police caught red-handed a hospital staff member with nappies. However, the culprit was not caught at the hospital, she hastened to explain.

Furthermore, Tobias revealed that the hospital's security is compromised. This, she said, is because there are many people who visit the hospital during non-visiting hours, resulting in "things disappearing".

When approached for comment on the matter, the senior medical superintendent Dr Sarah Shalongo's office referred this reporter to the office of the permanent secretary, in the Ministry of Health and Social Services.

However, by the time of going to press the office of the permanent secretary had not responded to the questions posed by New Era.

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