Kandjemuni Kamuiiri and Rose-Mary Haufiku

The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) says its hands are tied when it comes to taking disciplinary action against the three unidentified nurses from the Oshakati Intermediate Hospital who were filmed physically and verbally assaulting a patient.

The ministry has not suspended the three but instead assigned them new duties at the hospital while the matter is being investigated. Health Executive Director, Ben Nangombe, said, the Public Service Act dictates the circumstances under which a staff member in the public service may be suspended. “Suspension should first be conducted or effected when you receive recommendations from the Public Service Commission.

That’s why we are saying, we are going to act in terms of the provision of the Public Service Act. Suspension can be effected when you believe that the person may interfere with the witness or interfere with documents. I think in this particular case we do not believe that there is a possibility of this person interfering with witnesses or the people who are involved.”

Based on the Public Service Act of 1995, Nangombe said that an investigation will commence to establish all the relevant facts for appropriate action to be taken.

“The Ministry has informed the Public Service Commission about the incident. It is thus the duty of the Public Service Act to make provisions for circumstances under which a staff member in the public service may be suspended.”

Nangombe said the Ministry has also reported the matter to the Health Professions Councils of Namibia. “The Executive Director has reached out to the family of the patient to assure and inform them about the steps to be taken and to offer our sincere apologies for the inhumane treatment of their family member,” he added.

Nangombe said the Ministry condemned, in the strongest terms, the “heartless” act against an elderly patient placed in the Ministry’s hands, for care.

The incident is reported to have occurred on the night of 28 March. Based on the videos, after getting beaten and verbally abused by the health care workers, the patient said “I’m tired of getting beaten, I should just go die at home.”

When contacted for comments, Namibian Nurses Union Secretary General, Junias Shilunga, said he is unable to comment without the full details on the incident, as he was not fully aware of it. “As a Union, we will be required to get a thorough report about the whole thing. For now I won’t be at liberty to comment much on it,” he said.

“It is not how we should treat a patient. Our people need to be treated with humility and dignity. The moment we get a full report we will comment with authority.”

Registrar of the Nursing Council of Namibia, Cornelius Weyulu told Windhoek Observer that , “ the conduct of nurses in the video clip falls below the expected professional standard and that the ultimate aim of the Council is to protect the public against unprofessional conduct of the nurses and midwives/accoucheurs.”

“The Council has learned with a great displeasure the contents of the recorded video clip circulating on social media pages of the two nurses and a person in full personal protective gears attending to a patient at the Oshakati Intermediate Hospital and one of the nurses slapping that patient.”

In terms of the Nursing Act and regulations promulgated thereunder, Weyulu stated that “the Council is empowered to take appropriate action against any registered enrolled nurse or midwife/ accoucheur who contravene the codes of conduct set by the law.”

Human Rights Lawyer, Norman Tjombe, who reached out on social media, seeking for the details of the victim to handle the matter, said he had made contact with the victim’s family.

“We don’t know what the full facts are, once I get that, I will know what to do,” he told the Windhoek Observer.