Health dumps maternity ward contractor

By Maria Kandjungu

THE Ministry of Health plans to cancel the tender of the contractor responsible for the upgrade of Onandjokwe Hospital’s maternity ward, following prolonged delays and the contractor apparently abandoning work on the project.

All indications are that Amupolo Construction got the lion’s share of the N$63 million contract. The maternity ward project, worth around N$59 million, as well as a paediatric section and renovations to the accommodation facilities for student nurses were awarded to Amupolo Construction in 2015.

It was supposed to be completed in 2017. However, two years after the set completion date, the maternity ward building is still standing incomplete while construction and renovation has ground to a halt.

According to the Health Ministry’s executive director, Benetus Nangombe, the contractor was instructed to stop construction due to the continuous delays and substandard work.

“Recommendation for determination of contract with the current service provider has been made. Because it is not just the Ministry of Health but the project also involves the Ministry of Works and Transport, so the two ministries are looking into it,” Nangombe told Confidente this week.

It is understood that a new contractor has already been identified through the Procurement Board, to secure the buildings and ensure that the facilities do not deteriorate while a new contractor is being sought.

Called for comment Amupolo construction representative told Confidente that the her company is not to be blamed for the delay but the civil engineers that who gave them come up with the design that is not up to standard.

“They hold up now is the floor. The civil engineers gave us a floor plan that has no mesh (sic), we went ahead and adhered to their plan but after, we realised that the floor will not hold for long. They heavy theatre equipment’s and the roof will not be held by a floor that has no mesh. We were afraid that the floor will eventually sink and so we asked for advise from the ministry of works and transport who after sending their engineers issued us a letter of stoppage and we are now waiting on them for further instruction,” she informed Confidente adding that her company has done a lot of work for the health ministry including construction of the Arandis, Rehoboth, Omuthiya, Onangolo and other clinics which she claim to have been completed and handed over on time.

“The project is 70% is complete but we are waiting on further instruction. If they tell us another year to hammer out the floor. Who ever is at fault between us and the civil engineers will foot the cost,” she added.

The 100-bed maternity ward project was part of the N$62 million upgrade of the old hospital that the ministry embarked on after the then Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital was handed to government by the Lutheran Church which previously owned it for over 100 years.

The health minister at the time observed that there was no room for maternity patients and new born babies. The overall state of the hospital was deteriorating as the hospital walls had cracks, there were staff shortages amid growing patient numbers and poor management, lack of equipment and medical provisions, maladministration and a heavy workload, among other issues.

Consequent to this, government pumped in N$62 million to, among others, renovate the casualty ward and the outpatients’ department. While parts of the renovation were on track and have been completed by the other contractors, Amupolo has been struggling to deliver on their contract.

The delays in the construction of the ward date back to 2016 when Amupolo Construction reportedly requested an increase in the budgeted amount, saying it had under-quoted. The request was rejected by government, leading to a series of interruptions and postponements in completion of the ward.

Although construction was reportedly back on track in 2018 and the ward would have been completed in August that year, by November 2019 the contractor had only finished the floors, which according to contemporaneous reports were not up to standard and were without steel reinforcement, forcing government to halt construction.

In a similar case, the opening of the newly renovated wing at Okahandja State Hospital was also delayed after the contractor was booted from the project. Construction started in 2008 on new outpatient and casualty services, X-ray facilities, a pharmacy, TB ward, laboratory and an ambulance service, maternity and paediatric ward, theatre, as well as male and female wards.

“There was some complication and we have gone ahead to terminate the contract to bring in a new contractor and that delayed the process of completing it. The ministry is in the process to finalise the new section. There were a few outstanding issues to be sorted before officially opening, which will be during the first quarter of the year,” Nangombe previously said.

“We have sorted out our differences as quietly and fast as possible and it’s for those reasons I cannot tell you what the complication were or which contractor it was.

But I would like to assure the residents that we are aware of the delay and almost done with the final touches and look at opening the section during the first quarter of the year.

Nangombe told Confidente this week that the ministry is evaluating all its projects countrywide and is putting measures in place to ensure that swift action is taken on those projects where progress is not as it should be. He said delays are unacceptable and cannot be the order of the day as they inconvenience patients and are often costly to the government.