Covid-19 exposes cracks in health ministry

Flaws surface

22 June 2020 | Health

Walvis Bay •[email protected]


Efforts to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 in Walvis Bay have come to a complete standstill.

The harbour town is rapidly becoming a Covid-19 infection hotspot, with 20 cases and one recovery, as well as one case reported in Swakopmund.

The harbour town is now running out of isolation beds as more positive cases are being reported.

“The disaster risk management act is clear. If we find ourselves in a situation like this, we can claim property to isolate people or place them in quarantine. The onus now rests on the authorized officers to make decisions. We have bed and breakfast facilities, as well as guesthouses standing idle that can be utilised. We have warehouses. Claim these properties!” suggested the outspoken independent candidate and urban constituency councillor Knowledge Iipinge, who is the chairperson of the disaster risk management committee.

He called for the resignation of chief medical officer Dr Amir Shakir and regional health director Anna Jonas.

“They have failed the people of Walvis Bay. We should take ownership and responsibility. I feel that I have failed the people of Walvis Bay. I submitted recommendations and have not received any feedback due to bureaucracy.”

He also challenged Peya Mushelenga and the minister of health and social services Dr Kalumbi Shangula to visit Walvis Bay to witness what was happening on the ground.

Private initiative

In March 2020, the Welwitschia Private Hospital established the Corona Care Campaign aimed at assisting the Walvis Bay and Swakopmund State Hospitals.

Additionally, the construction of a 150-bed medical facility was launched with much fanfare on March 26 by the Walvis Bay urban constituency risk disaster management team in collaboration with the private hospital and the business community.

This construction process has been at a stand still ever since.

The Corona Care Campaign later branched into the Erongo Corona Care Initiative.

“It is very clear that we have a leadership crisis, regionally and nationally. There is no strategy, there is no plan. The Walvis Bay urban constituency has a strategy in place which we already developed in March 2020. We have been making submissions to relevant authorities since January 2020.”

Red tape

According to Ipinge, a large and complicated bureaucracy system id hampering progress.

“The ministry of health is sitting with this documentation. It is flabbergasting to have representatives of the World Health Organisation visiting Walvis Bay as well as the deputy executive director, and when they asked about the documentation and plans submitted, those responsible were clearly in the dark.”

He explained that only approval from the ministry was needed to go ahead with Covid-19 contingency plans for Walvis Bay.

“The guidelines contained in the plans are very clear. Its states how many social workers, psychologists and nurses we need. The ministry has not told us whether we are right or wrong. All we want is approval for the model we submitted to assist government’s efforts in the fight against Covid-19. Give us the approval, we will raise the money and get the teams on the ground to do the work.”

Dissatisfaction

Anton Pretorius, a member of the Erongo Region Corona Care Initiative, expressed his dissatisfaction and outrage at the prevailing scenario.

The initiative has been at the forefront with a well-coordinated strategy for the Erongo region to ease the pressure on the lead ministry concerning Covid-19.

“We are disappointed that the grand plan which is aligned with the request of the president could not take off. The failure to engage the community was due to incompetency and this is primarily as a result of the ministry of health and social services regional leadership and their condescending inability to listen, hear, and understand the needs and expectations of the people of the Walvis Bay rural and urban constituencies.”

Pretorius said that ministry of health’s regional leadership had done absolutely nothing the past three months. “Now the community has to suffer.”

According to Pretorius, Dr Amir predicted that the region will only record 210 cases by January 2021.

Pretorius reiterated that the ministry was warned about the exponential curve and should have known better.

“This was supposed to be included in their strategic response plan.”

Silence

Attempts to reach director of health Anna Jonas and Dr Amir Shakir were unsuccessful.

Ben Nangombe, the executive director of the ministry of health, upon inquiry said that he first needs to get information from the ground.

Pretorius said that the Swapo party has been supportive and assisted with all the means at its disposal.

“Representatives from both Walvis Bay urban and rural constituencies are part of the Erongo Community Care - Covid-19 Task Team. They have engaged with the communities and voiced the frustration and communicated the hardship of the people to the ECC Task Team.”

Cladius Ikera, the information and mobilization officer of the Swapo party, said that the committees have been working hard to finalise the isolation centres.

“There was a delay caused by the ministry of health. The business community was providing the funds for these facilities.”
He agreed that politics was not part of the initiative.

“We were all together on the same team. It had nothing to do with positions in political parties. The support from the top was not there. They were not as transparent as they should have been. Everything should have been done by now.”

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