14 February 2013

Namibia: Health Ministry Pleads for Patience On Staff Uniforms

THE Ministry of Health and Social Services has been failing to supply its staff with uniforms for many years while state patients have to mostly fend for themselves in the provision of attire and bedding because of the complicated procurement policies, the permanent secretary Andrew Ndishishi has confirmed.

Ndishishi could not say when last the ministry made bulk procurement of staff uniforms, patients' attire and bedding, only saying "it has been some few years now."

Some uniformed employees in the Ministry of Health and Social Services have expressed dissatisfaction with the the ministry's prolonged delay to provide staff with uniforms.

One irate nurse who contacted The Namibian said uniforms were last distributed about five years ago.

He charged that staff are now compelled to buy their own uniforms "as long as it is a white shirt and blue trousers or skirt and own shoes for the nursing staff".

This, he said, does not only look unprofessional but also impacts on their finances.

Ndishishi said the ministry is in the process of improving its internal procurement measures to streamline the distribution of material such as staff uniforms.

He explained that it is currently very cumbersome for the ministry to provide new recruits and those with worn-out attire with uniforms as it is required to put out a tender for procurement even though only a few items might be needed.

The tender board has thus now granted the ministry authority to buy fabric in bulk before tenders are called for the mass production of material.

The ministry will also train its own people to manufacture uniforms and other material such as curtains and linen in cases of few orders.

"I urge staff members to remain patient as it is very difficult to find people with appropriate skills in Namibia to be able to meet our demands," Ndishishi said.

He said the ministry is going through a learning process and would in future put measures in place that would enable it to attend to minor repairs and replacements at state health institutions.

Asked whether the internal manufacturing of material would not open the process to abuse in the already troubled ministry, Ndhishishi said that fabrics for all uniformed staff members of the ministry would be clearly branded with government and ministry labels to make them easily recognisable.

Yesterday The Namibian reported that N$12,3 billion worth of tenders had gone through exemption between 2004 and 2007 prompting concerns that the process might be open to abuse.

The new procurement measures will also cater for patients' attire and bed linen.

Ndishishi would not commit himself whether staff members would be compensated for spending their money to buy uniforms.

"We will deal with that problem once we have solved the procurement issue sufficiently," he said.

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