Pohamba orders health probeBy: DENVER KISTING
PRESIDENT Hifikepunye Pohamba yesterday announced the appointment of a commission of inquiry into the state of the public health sector.
Pohamba ordered the commission – chaired by retired High Court Judge Simpson Mtambanengwe – to provide feedback on their findings within four months.
The President said he wants to see value for the money that the Government spends on the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
In the current national budget, the ministry got N$4 billion of the N$40,2 billion budget. This is the second largest allocation after the Ministry of Education and represents close to 10 per cent of the national budget.
Recent media reports about the ailing public health system appear to be at the centre of the probe. “Some of the reports have painted a negative picture regarding the status of our public health sector, especially in the field of maternal health,” Pohamba said when he unveiled the commission.
According to him, the country has too small a population to lose lives in situations where death could be prevented. “As a caring government, we have a duty to address the welfare of our citizens. There is no need for our mothers to die while giving life.”
Yesterday, the President said the commission needs to investigate the activities, affairs, management and operations of the ministry.
Among other things, the commission must look into the quality of patient care, the status of maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and the quality of training of doctors and nurses, curriculum development, training materials and the duration, quality of training, adequacy and relevance of internship.
The commission must also assess the quality of public health facilities, the status of available medical equipment, needs for upgrading and the availability of medicines in public hospitals, health centres and clinics.
President Pohamba further ordered a probe into the adequacy, attraction, motivation and retention of human resources as well as the conduct of health professionals in terms of ethics, professionalism and their attitude towards patients.
Also to be evaluated is the need for waiting shelters for expectant mothers near hospitals and health centres – especially in rural areas – and the adequacy of the proposed restructuring of the ministry.
According to the President, “access to health care should reach every Namibian regardless of whether such a citizen lives in [an] urban or rural area. We want to ensure universal access to health services.”
Richard Kamwi, the Minister of Health and Social Services, welcomed what he called Pohamba’s prerogative. “I am happy – this will help us.”
The health ministry has for years made do with limited financial and human resources, he said.
“We know our challenges in this ministry and I am personally grateful. As Government, we should put our money where our mouths are.”
Kamwi appealed to all employees of the Ministry of Health and Social Services “to render their uncompromised assistance”.
The Health Professions Council, currently also investigating mother and newborn baby deaths in State facilities, also welcomed the commission.
Cornelius Weyulu, its spokesperson, said it will give its full cooperation “if and when required to do so”.
The other members of the commission are Dr Edward T. Maganu, a former permanent secretary in the Botswana health ministry, Dr John Keiseb, a gynaecologist, and Celine Usiku, a human resources director.
This is the first presidential commission of inquiry under Pohamba’s leadership. There were several commissions of inquiry during former President Sam Nujoma’s term.