6 February 2018

Namibia: Disease Recipe At Katutura ... As the Hospital Goes Three Days Without Water

The Katutura Intermediate Hospital has had no water from Saturday to yesterday, despite reported hepatitis E and cholera outbreaks in Windhoek.

The Namibian understands that the water cut compelled the management to cancel all scheduled surgeries at the hospital, which serves as the primary referral centre. All those who tested positive for hepatitis E, a disease that affects the liver and is caused by drinking contaminated water, were referred to the Katutura Intermediate Hospital.

This hospital has a capacity for 840 patients, and since it is also a referral centre, it could have been full when the water supplies were disconnected.

Most of the patients were forced to rely on water brought in by family members in small plastic bottles, until the City of Windhoek deployed a water bowser.

Although City of Windhoek spokesperson Lydia Amutenya told The Namibian yesterday that they deployed the water tank earlier, some hospital staff members said the tank was only brought yesterday.

Staff also said before the city deployed the tank, patients had used hydrant water for bathing. When The Namibian visited yesterday afternoon, a heavy stench of excreta engulfed parts of the hospital. Scores of nurses, cleaners and patients were carrying buckets of water from the tank into the wards.

Although some used trolleys to carry water containers, they complained of exhaustion.

"My arms are about to fall off. This is terrible," lamented one cleaner.

Six female patients on different floors told The Namibian that it was uncomfortable for some who were on their periods, and expressed relief that they had relatives who brought them water from home.

In other wards, many patients had empty cool-drink bottles filled with water, and some had 10-litre jerrycans for bathing and drinking right next to their beds.

Acting health permanent secretary Petronella Msabane confirmed that the water supply was disrupted over the weekend.

She said the water supply was restored by late yesterday afternoon.

"We are investigating the cause of the disruption. The incident was also reported to the police for investigation," Masabane said.

The works ministry's spokesperson, Julius Ngweda, yesterday said the water supplies were cut off last Friday due to a burst pipe.

He explained that this was because of work being carried out by municipal workers on water pipes.

"Someone closed the water supply, and caused the main pump to burst. The pump is being fixed this afternoon," Ngweda said.

Over the past few years, the hospital, which was constructed in 1973, has experienced more than four water cuts due to pipe bursts which were blamed on the ageing infrastructure. However, Amutenya had blamed the works ministry for the water cut, saying that the problem was not caused by the City of Windhoek.

Katutura Intermediate Hospital medical superintendent Dr Fady Ashmawy refused to comment on the issue, nor could he confirm the cancellation of surgeries at the hospital.

Last week, the health ministry said they had detected a single case of cholera involving a 10-year-old schoolboy who had been admitted to a private medical practice.

Although there have not been any new cholera cases reported, the health ministry said the single case was enough to declare an outbreak.

On Friday, President Hage Geingob and health minister Bernard Haufiku visited Havana to see first-hand the conditions which had caused the hepatitis E outbreak.

Since the health ministry declared the hepatitis E outbreak, three women have died after giving birth, while more than 500 people have tested positive.

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