PRIVATE hospitals are getting overwhelmed with the rising Covid-19 cases while state hospitals are still accommodating patients as pressure mounts on the health delivery system.
Figures from the Ministry of Health and Social Services show that hospital admissions in Namibia currently stand at 255 with 39 of them in intensive care units (ICUs) as of yesterday. The country has roughly 122 ICU beds in private and state hospitals.
Of these, about 77 are in state hospitals.
The chairperson of the Private Hospitals Association, Esme Botes, confirmed that private hospitals are trying their best to accommodate Covid-19 patients, despite the overwhelming numbers.
Botes said the four private hospitals – Rhino Park, Lady Pohamba, Mediclinic and Roman Catholic – send patients to state hospitals when there is an overflow.
She added that Covid-19 patients are transferred between private and state hospital only when the need arises.
“We are trying to accommodate as many Covid-19 patients as we can,” Botes said.
Health minister Kalumbi Shangula said the government has created a platform where all Covid-19 patients who need beds, get access. He noted that private hospitals had indicated they had a shortage of beds, but the state hospitals are not facing the same dilemma.
The minister added that the state is able to accommodate private patients if the need arises, saying in the past three days the government had no crisis with regards to bed capacity, especially in ICUs.
“At some point, we had a number of empty beds in ICUs. Any patient who needs an ICU bed, can get accommodated. In the public sector we have also increased the capacity and have bed capacity inclusive of ICUs countrywide,” Shangula noted.
Former health minister and member of the Covid-19 task team Bernard Haufiku in December said the task team had warned of a possibility of bed shortages during the first stages of the pandemic.
He added that the team had made recommendations to turn the Rhino Garment Factory (Ramatex) into a Covid-19 facility to accommodate about 150 patients. The project was meant to be in collaboration with the private sector, according to Haufiku, who added that the idea was shot down. The private sector then pulled out, the former minister noted.
Meanwhile, Shangula at the time said the idea was not rejected, but had to be parked because the ministry had other plans in place such as the current construction of a 63-bed facility in Windhoek and an addition of a 63-bed facility at Oshakati.
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Shangula said the private sector was initially involved in the project, and the private sector indicated they did not need funding from the government but later came back saying they did not have any funds. However, they offered technical support.
The minister added they had approached the City of Windhoek to make the Ramatex complex available for use as a facility and the ministry was granted the permission. The private sector had initially mentioned it would raise funding through financial institutions, he said.
“We then said let us consult our architects to develop a concept paper and cost estimates. This happened and after that I approached Cabinet about the plan, and it was stated that for the time being let us continue with projects which are in the hospitals and keep this one but not cancel it. We had to develop the ones in the hospital and see whether there would be a need to develop the extra facility,” he added.
With the rising cases, and hospitals becoming overwhelmed, Namibia introduced a range of new regulations on 23 December 2020. These regulations saw the re-emergence of a daily curfew from 21h00 to 04h00, restricting movement during those hours to curb the spread of the disease.
As the country is experiencing a second wave and the possibility of a new Covid-19 strain that originates from South Africa, public gatherings were reduced from 100 outside and 200 inside to 50 persons.
The sale of alcohol is prohibited after 20h00 at restaurants, nightclubs and bars, while it is banned on Sundays and public holidays. These regulations are expected to lapse on 13 January.