21 June 2018

Namibia: Government Promises to Pay Nip N$30m

The government has promised to pay the Namibia Institute of Pathology N$30 million this week after concerns that the institution had failed to supply blood test bottles to the Windhoek Central Hospital's intensive care unit.

The Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP), which manages all public health sector testing and disease monitoring services through its 40 laboratories across the country, was this week in a crisis after the suspension of its chief executive officer, Augustinus Katiti.

Before his suspension, Katiti had demanded that the government pays the N$710 million that it owed NIP since 2016.

NIP board chairperson Diina Shuuluka told The Namibian this week that she had consulted health minister Bernard Haufiku and acting permanent secretary Petronella Masabane to discuss payments.

"The NIP will be receiving funds before the end of the week, and all critical suppliers will be paid latest by Friday," she said.

A person familiar with this matter said the government promised to pay the NIP around N$30 million this week, which will be used to pay suppliers.

Documents seen by The Namibian show that Katiti was informed about the decision by two companies which had planned to close the entity's accounts.

The papers show that NIP chief: technical operations, Harold Kaura told Katiti on 8 June 2018 that "the company IDH/BD supplying us with blood culture bottles which we supply to the intensive care unit has closed our account, and will not be able to supply us with the needed blood culture bottles".

It is not clear how much the companies are owed, but a person familiar with the matter said the NIP provides the Windhoek Central Hospital's ICU department with five to 10 blood test bottles a day.

An NIP insider told The Namibian this week that the lack of blood test bottles for the ICU department could affect patients undergoing operations.

In fact, the NIP warned their clients (95% government) on Monday this week that some services, including the supply of blood test bottles, would be interrupted.

The notice seen by The Namibian said clients should expect "delays on the turnaround of tests and results delivery due to no bottles being available for blood culture requests".

Windhoek Central Hospital superintendent Dr David Uirab told The Namibian on Tuesday that they are not experiencing any shortages of blood test bottles, nor has his staff members complained about it.

He added that they usually receive the bottles and needles from NIP or PathCare, as the hospitals do not have their own.

However, a person familiar with this matter said the privately owned firm (PathCare) charges 20% more than the NIP.

"They have started to approach PathCare since the NIP does not have money to buy these bottles," the source said.

PathCare said they provided the Central Hospital's ICU department with blood test bottles on Monday, over a week after the NIP's executives said their suppliers had stopped delivering the bottles.

The chief operator at PathCare, Linda Dodds, told The Namibian yesterday that they only provide state hospitals with the bottles if they are requested to.

Meanwhile, Kaura said the lack of funds has also led to four companies, Abbott, Roche, Genmed and Riverside, to stop supplying reagents (chemicals used to analyse blood).

"The inability to pay has forced suppliers into wanting to terminate their lease agreements and remove their equipment from NIP laboratories".

A source said due to the lack of the blood test bottles in the ICU, the department is currently not able to test for bacterial infections in the blood.

"With regards to not having reagents, we cannot do basic laboratory tests to assist clinicians with their diagnosis, nor to help them monitor patients who are on treatment, i.e.viral load testing for patients who are on treatment for HIV-AIDS, or patients who are on TB treatment," the source explained.

Besides the Windhoek Central Hospital, The Namibian could not establish which other hospitals are experiencing similar problems of the shortage of blood test bottles.

The Namibian reported this week that the NIP is drowning in debt, which has paralysed the operations of the national agency.

In a letter dated 13 June 2018, Katiti wrote to chairperson Shuuluka, informing her about issues that the board seems to be overlooking, such as the money which the health ministry owes, and the lack of blood culture bottles.

Katiti said he had previously informed the board that the institution is unable to pay its critical suppliers for urgently needed reagents and related laboratory supplies required to perform critical tests.

"I equally highlighted the fact that I do not rule out the loss of human lives due to the inability of the NIP to perform urgent and critical tests," he stated.

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