Clementine Tjameya

President Geingob’s so-called ‘surprise’ visit to the Katutura Intermediate Hospital raised a number of frustrated and angry comments online and around town. People all over the country are wondering if it was really a surprise visit or just a staged visit. The public has been complaining about the hospital for as long as I can remember. Over the past few weeks the complaints got out of hand. There was even a petition going on social media which said, “Save Katutura Hospital”. People were, and are still, angry about the dilapidated state that of that hospital.

However, after his visit, the president stated, “The hospital is generally clean and maintenance of health equipment is satisfactory”. “Generally clean”, the two words that can never be put in the same sentence with Katutura Hospital. I find this very contradictory to what the public that regularly use that hospital is saying. I even had a hospital stay there for two weeks and what I went through was not what Geingob saw. My guess is the president was shown the few nice and clean places in the facility. No one with complaints was allowed access to the president during his visit.

Geingob and his family will never be patients at a state hospital. They will receive the best private care that can be afforded by the state coffers. So, his judgement of what is “satisfactory” at Katutura Hospital is not based on the fact that his life and health (and those of his loved ones) will depend on that facility.

There is a video on twitter where the president is standing in one of the rooms in the hospital. The room is very clean and organised. This had me thinking of all the hard work the staff at the hospital had to do in order to find at least one clean room.
Why go through all that trouble? And just like people said on Twitter, why not show him the real deal? The real deal is that the hospital really does need saving. The public is tired of begging for changes. The things Geingob was shown were just pretense.
This is the problem with us Namibians. The one chance we had to show the president the difficulties we are experiencing in one of our biggest medical facilities, was tossed away. From now on, he will dismiss any protests about the shabby, unhygienic, broken down and inefficient hospitals in Namibia. He will not accept calls for more budget, more doctors, needed supplies and medicines and more nurses. He will believe they are not needed.

We already know that the president is in many people’s bad books. I think that he meant it when he said that he has “heard the people’s complaints” after he barely won the presidential election last November. I appreciate that he took the time to go and see for himself what people are complaining about at that particular hospital. Those who work in that nightmare everyday were supposed to show him the real picture.

He should have moved about randomly, not steered upon a particular path. Patients who are in the emergency rooms waiting all day should have talked to him. People who cannot get the medicines they need should have talked to him. People sleeping on mattresses on the floor in wards should have talked to him. People having roaches crawl over them as they sleep should have talked to him. They are the ones who are using the hospital and know the hardships they go through.

But, that is not what happened. The public relations people and those higher officials who did not want to get in trouble for the mess they manage, controlled the so-called, “surprise” visit. No wonder people concluded the whole thing wasn’t a surprise at all. Are we supposed to just believe that the staff at Katutura hospital just woke up last Friday and decided to go on a cleaning spree?
One of the patients was even quoted saying, “We are living in a mess. There is an I don’t care attitude among staff members and nurses at this hospital. We just hope things will change after this visit. We saw people rushing, we thought maybe it’s the minister, now we see it’s the man himself.”

Another patient even complained about how there are no separate rooms for men and women in some wards. Why wasn’t the president shown this unorderly side of the hospital? Those trying to fake the reality of that hospital should rather have let the reality confront him.

I sincerely believe the president must know better than to believe the nervous smiles and incomplete images of the hospital that were presented to him. People have been complaining for years. That means there is something that’s not right. So please, Katutura hospital tour guides, do a re-run and this time, tell the truth. Show him the reality so that he sees that the hospital in desperate need of investment, renovation, cleaning, better medicines, and more doctors. Show him the real deal.