The Namibian (Windhoek)

12 April 2013

Namibia: Things Fall Apart At Maternity Wards

THE maternity wards at the country’s two biggest hospitals continue to deteriorate, with insiders describing conditions there as shocking.

Health workers say the Katutura State Hospital has been without cold water for the past six weeks and no records have been kept in the maternity ward since January.

Doctors are said to be using buckets to provide water to their patients in the maternity ward because of broken basins and toilets.

A source at the hospital told The Namibian that doctors in the gyneacology department had to postpone three urgent operations on Tuesday due to the lack of water in the main theatre.

There is no cold water in the maternity ward and doctors have to use hot water to scrub up before surgery. The same centre was without water for two weeks last year.

The quality of surgical gloves provided is another concern. The source said it is important to have the right sizes because it is uncomfortable to operate with gloves that are too tight or loose and this poses an unnecessary risk during operations.

“The quality of the gloves is terrible. Gloves tear while we are operating, and we are forced to use two pairs at a time,” said the source.

Medical practitioners have had their share of criticism over maternal deaths and alleged medical negligence.

A doctor who declined to be named said: “It is getting to a point where my patients are dying and suffering because of basic medical necessities that are not there.”

The woes at the maternity ward of the Katutura Hospital do not end there.

In the wake of the recent maternal deaths, some people threatened to sue the state.

A doctor said they were worried about the lack of patient booklets. They use the booklets to monitor patients during and after delivery and to record vital information of everything the doctors did while a patient is in their care.

These booklets are legal documents admissible in a court of law if a doctor is sued by a patient.

A source said the Katutura Hospital’s maternity unit currently uses photocopied pages of the original booklet, a move that has not gone down well with doctors since the loose pages are likely to get lost.

The maternity ward at the Windhoek Central Hospital, which was reopened at the end of last year after renovations, is also “breaking down”, according to a source who works there.

The source said the power in the theatre, for example, keeps tripping during operations.

The problem has been dragging on since December last year, and despite being reported to hospital officials, the issue has not been resolved.

A 22-year-old Windhoek woman died last month at the Central Hospital after 50 hours of labour. A doctor at the hospital said at some point during the delivery they had to close down the theater due to power problems. The patient had to be transferred to another building, which does not have the necessary equipment.

Drains are also said to be blocked and urgent repairs are delayed due to bureaucracy at the Windhoek Central Hospital.

A source said doctors are turned into plumbers to fix problems or else have to wait for maintenance crews from the Ministry of Works who take about three weeks to show up.

“The handles of doors are completely broken off while cupboards are falling apart. Medical equipment should be fixed the next day, not six weeks later,” said the source.

The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Andrew Ndishishi, confirmed the deteriorating conditions at the maternity wards. However, Ndishishi declined to blame his management for the poor state of the wards and instead blamed consultants and contractors of ripping off the government and making people suffer.

“Ask them why they are not doing their job,” he said.

Ndishishi said he had a meeting with consultants this week where they tried to assure him that the renovations would be completed by next year. However, he told them to finish this year or “pack their bags now”.

According to him, renovations at the two hospitals will be completed by December this year.

Ndishishi said Health Minister Richard Kamwi met his Works counterpart Erkki Nghimtina on Monday to discuss the situation at the hospitals and resolved to appoint him and Works permanent secretary Peter Mwatile to oversee the renovations.

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