Hospitals in bed crisis

Andrew Kathindi

Namibia is facing a shortage of beds in hospitals; the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) has confirmed.

This is due to the high rise in patients due to the third wave the country is facing, with Namibia currently recording over 1000 cases a day with an average of over 40 percent positivity ratio from confirmed cases a day. “There is pressure on the available beds. The number of patients has simply increased. Whether it’s in the private sector, or the public sector, you have a situation where there is pressure on available beds,” Health ministry Executive Director, Ben Nangombe, told Windhoek Observer. Earlier this month the Ministry suspended the referral of all non-emergency patients from the regions to the Central and Katutura intermediate hospitals, as the two hospitals had become overcrowded. The Ministry had also halted all non-emergency surgeries.

“We are always doing that. In fact, additional space has been created in the central hospital, in Katutura hospital and other places. In Windhoek we are looking at even bringing on board the tent hospital. We had brought on the military hospital. These efforts are on-going on a daily basis,” Nangombe said about what they are doing regarding the situation

“The position of the Ministry is that we will not turn a patient away who needs to be admitted. Where there is a need, we can always make a plan, if you just seek assistance in good time. We will see what we can do to help such patients. It’s not a good thing for people to sit with patients at home and not seek care on time.”

Videos showing patients at the hospital on the floor without beds have been circulating. On Monday, 28 June, Medical Superintendent at the Katutura State Hospital, Dr Nelago Amagulu, announced that outpatient services at the hospital have been suspended. “Due to the alarmingly high and increasing cases of COVID-19 in the community and hospital, Intermediate Hospital Katutura Outpatient Department is now a COVID-19 designated holding, and oxygenation area for patients awaiting bed availability and placement. Hence outpatient services are suspended effective 29 June 2021 till further notice at Intermediate Hospital Katutura,” Amagulu says.

Meanwhile, the Health ministry has said it is hoping to procure 660 000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, being Astra Zeneca, Sinopharm, Sputnik Light and J&J, by August. The country’s stock levels of COVID-19 vaccines have been running low with the Omusati Health Director, Alfons Amoomo, suspending the first dose to reserve doses for the second jab.

On Monday however, Nangombe told Windhoek Observer that the Ministry’s position is that “people should not be turned away, and particularly for the first dose, people must be assisted.”

Health Minister, Kalumbi Shangula, echoes these sentiments, stating, “the ministry will continue vaccinating as many people as possible with the 1st dose, while the booster dose or 2nd dose will be given as soon as the next consignment is received in July 2021.”

“This is in accordance with the WHO (World Health Organisation) guidance in case of limited vaccine supply. It should be noted that the 1st dose of the vaccine already offers some degree of protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death. Thus, vaccinating as many people as possible with the first dose will lead to the protection of the larger proportion of the population against severe illness, hospitalisation and death.”

Namibia has thus far recorded 86 649 cases with 1 445 deaths.

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