Namibia: Hospitals Cancel Surgeries

The national state referral hospitals Windhoek Central Hospital and Katutura Intermediate Hospital will no longer perform any operations unless they are urgent, as the country continues to battle a third wave of Covid-19 infections.

This was said by the senior medical superintendent of the Windhoek Central Hospital, Dr David Uirab, in new Covid-19- related directives issued to staff members.

This comes as state hospitals are overwhelmed and the Ministry of Health and Social Services has summoned reinforcements from other regions to help Khomas and create more space.

Uirab yesterday afternoon told The Namibian that operations for non-life-threatening conditions will not be performed.

"Those who can wait, will wait," he said.

In the last seven days, the country recorded 3 543 new infections and 90 deaths.

Uirab has also placed a moratorium on non-emergency referrals from the regions.

The hospitals are still gearing up for a third wave, as Uirab directed them to establish independent Covid-19 units for three to six months.

"These terms will consist of newly recruited as well as redeployed existing staff," he said.

Windhoek-based infectious diseases specialist Dr Gordon Cupido says the country is possibly in the ascent of a third wave.

"Probably for a few weeks if nothing changes. The test percentage has been above 20%. But given that healthcare facilities are overrun, I would say yes definitely," he said.

Cupido warned that deaths will go up rapidly now because there are no beds for new patients.

"Anyone infected in the past week and in the next two weeks might not get a hospital bed both in private or state," he added.

Minister of health and social services Kalumbi Shangula warned that the current Covid-19 situation in the country is serious and warrants serious public health measures. He confirmed the country was in the midst of the third wave of Covid-19 infections.

"It calls for cessation of unnecessary travel. It calls for cessation of enjoyment. The pleasure of today does not warrant the pains of tomorrow," he stressed.

The minister further indicated that mortuaries are strained as the number of deaths increases.

In the circular, Uirab instructed consultants to do "physical ward rounds inside the Covid-19 units" to assess patients, which will direct the management's plans ahead.

He also directed hospital management to procure additional equipment needed, however, he does not specify what is outstanding.

The hospitals are further directed to assist the Khomas health directorate to open the military hospital "as a matter of urgency".

"All outreach visits to Windhoek Central and Katutura Intermediary are suspended," he added.

This comes as health executive director Ben Nangombe told a press briefing last week that hospitals had increased beds and created space to accommodate more patients.

"In recent weeks, we have increased the number of beds at the respiratory unit from 68 to 74; we have created additional physical spaces in other hospitals to cater for the increases; we are looking at converting the old Namibia Institute of Pathology near Katutura Intermediate Hospital into a Covid-19 treatment centre," he explained.

GASPING FOR OXYGEN

Meanwhile, the Oshikoto health directorate has put all elective theatre operations on hold effective from yesterday due to a lack of oxygen supplies at all the three district hospitals in the region.

The main oxygen generating machine at Onandjokwe Lutheran hospital is said to be currently generating more than 240 litres per minute hence taking up much of the oxygen supply due to the rising number of Covid-19 patients being admitted daily.

The deputy health director for Oshikoto region, Akutu Munyika told The Namibian in an interview that the Covid-19 patients being admitted at mostly Onandjokwe hospital are using up much of the little oxygen supply at the hospital's only oxygen generator plant, thus resulting in the hospital running out of oxygen supply.

"Our main issue at the moment is the supply of oxygen generators. Normally, the oxygen generating plant that we have in the region is usually enough for all the patients including the theatre but at the moment we found ourselves running out of oxygen supply due to the rising number of Covid-19 patients. We have, therefore, decided to put on hold all elective theatre operations and only attend to emergency cases," he said.

He said the directorate has requested additional oxygen cylinders from the health ministry and the ministry has promised to make provision for additional cylinders and to build an additional oxygen generating machine at Onandjokwe.

Munyika further added that the directorate has about 60% of bed capacity to accommodate more patients at Omuthiya, Tsumeb and Onandjokwe hospitals, despite being preoccupied by Covid-19 patients.

The Oshikoto health directorate is also in need of 10 additional ventilators for patients suffering from Covid-19, as the region only has a total of 12 ventilators at the moment.

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