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No more PR, let's take action.

It was so sad, I could do nothing else but laugh. The Minister of Health, Dr Richard Kamwi this week pleaded with the media not to "tarnish" his image after reports that N$18 million was spent on the wrong vaccine. He was quoted as having said that he forgave journalists for causing him misery and "unbearable pain."

Unbearable pain? Is he serious? It certainly caused the taxpayer unbearable pain to hear that he/she has to cough up yet again to cover another major mess up. And what's worse is that nobody publicly accepted the responsibility for what happened. The minister said neither him or his permanent secretary ordered the drug. Then who did?

Am I right in assuming that Dr Kamwi would rather that the public never found out about the whole saga? Should it have been swept under the rug like so many other mess ups? This whole thing made me wonder how many other times the wrong drug was ordered and used.

Kamwi also said that it only came to his attention in January that the Heberpenta vaccine does not comply with the World Health Organisation's recommendations. That is the mother of all excuses. How is it possible that you buy a drug without ensuring that it can be used?

The minister seems like an intelligent man and I have much respect for him. When he took office, I had high hopes. I felt that he could bring about major change in the public health sector. His no-nonsense attitude, the way he told public health care workers to shape up or ship out--not to mention the surprise visits to hospitals--made me think this might just be the right man for the job. And one of his major successes as the minister of health, is the opening of the first cardiac unit.

But I'm afraid to say, that not much has changed. A funny' smell still greets you at the door when you enter the Katutura State Hospital. There is a shortage of oxygen at hospitals; most recently at the Gobabis State Hospital. And it does not matter what illness one has or the severity of it, Panado is the prescribed medicine. The stories one hears about the treatment people receive at state hospitals is also horrifying.

What's worse in my opinion, is that we can afford to blow N$18 million on the wrong drug and then donate it back to the country of origin. That really blew my mind. How do you do that? And there are so many people in need in Namibia; take for example the people who are going hungry and are scavenging for food at waste dumps. That money would have been put to better use to feed as well as create jobs for them.

So what if Cuba did a lot for Namibia during the liberation struggle, as the minister mentioned at the press conference held this week. Does it mean that we have to pay back for eternity? Does it mean that we should just take whatever crap we receive and is that reason enough for us to waste so much resources?


Is it not enough that we have Cuban doctors who cannot communicate with their patients?

I think it is time for the honourable minister to take drastic action. No talk, no PR campaigns, just action. It is about time that Namibians who cannot afford private health care, can be assured that they can receive the same quality health care their wealthier fellow citizens receive.

By: Clemencia Jacobs
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Author:Jacobs, Clemencia
Publication:Namibia Economist (Windhoek, Namibia)
Date:Aug 19, 2011
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