Speaking at the Covid-19 information centre in Windhoek on Thursday, health ministry executive director Ben Nangombe says Namibia still has the best health infrastructure compared to other African countries, despite some challenges.

Ben Nangombe

Nangombe is speaking with fellow panellist Thomas Mbeeli, acting director of health technology and infrastructure management, on the preparedness of the ministry of health for Covid-19.

Namibia has one main referral hospital, three intermediate hospitals, 31 district hospitals, 43 health centers and 279 clinics.

He said the Windhoek Central Hospital casualty is being used as a ICU facility for infectious diseases, a 12 bed facility has also been constructed near the hospital which is waiting for the installation of medical gases but for now it can accommodate mild cases.

They are also using the TB ward at Katutura Hospital which will be converted into a 52 bed isolation facility of which 11 will be ICU beds. The ministry has awarded bids to construct isolation facilities at Opuwo, Oshakati, Rundu amongst others.

“Generally I think Namibia is ready, we have a public health system that is ready to accommodate what is coming if it is going to come at all. We can comfortably say the nation can be rest assured that the facilities put in place will be able to respond adequately to what is coming,” he added.

Acting director of health technology and infrastructure management Thomas Mbeeli said 31 district hospitals and the three referral hospitals which are not based in Windhoek, reservations have been made for isolation beds for each.

He noted that they are also looking into converting a malaria camp in the Handala district into a isolation facilities.

“We have gone out to make sure that we can respond to all our district hospitals. We are not only referring to the far northern belt but we are also doing it at Mariental in consultation with the sports minister to use the youth centre,” he said.

They also want to upgrade the Keetmanshoop Hospital to have additional isolation facilities for //Kharas region.

Mbeeli said they are also making sure they have enough transport to refer patients however the biggest strategy is to minimize movement between facilities. According to the Cost Plan for Covid-19, there are about 2605 health professionals and as from today 1053 have been recruited, the executive director said.

Nangombe said they go through their database to recruit the health professionals, however, he urged those who are qualified to submit their qualifications to the ministry by calling their toll free number.

He noted that it’s not only the state health responding to the virus noting that the private health sector has also come on board.


TRAINING AND SUPPORT

Nangombe said community health workers are being trained before they are sent out to inform the public and do screening. Regarding quarantine facilities, he said those being held in those places are being provided with psycho-social support.

For the past 19 days, no new cases have been recorded, which Nangombe believes is due to the measures government has put in place. Nangombe notes that health workers are provided with accommodation away from their families to protect themselves and families, and they have personal protective equipment handed to them.

“We need to emphasise the rational use of personal protective equipment (…) we have ongoing training for them to know how to use these equipment,” he said.

Nangombe said they have prioritised water and electricity at all public health facilities to make sure they operate in a manner that is safe. He went on to say that the ministry has increased testing in the country by also implementing the mass testing.

“We have completed the concept note on up-scaling and expanding testing. We have identified the target groups that are going to be tested to get that critical data that we need,” he said.

He said they are looking into testing people in the fishing and mining sector, as well as health workers to get this data needed.

Nangombe said if health workers are to get sick, they will be treated in the same manner as any other person. However if there is someone that needs ‘sophisticated’ health care, they will be directed elsewhere.


CHALLENGES

Nangombe said if health workers are to get sick, they will be treated in the same manner as any other person. However if there is someone that needs ‘sophisticated’ health care, they will be directed elsewhere.

He said they go through their database to recruit the health professionals, however, he urged those who are qualified can also admit their qualifications to the ministry by calling their toll free number.

He added that the challenges faced in the health sector are still there and are being attended to, noting that they are not only concerned with Covid-19.

“Our work doesn’t start and end with Covid-19 we are still engaging in terms with providing public health services,” he said

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