New hospital wing at Okahandja still closed

… Ministry terminates contract with contractor

By Maria Kandjungu

THE Ministry of Health and Social Services has asked Okahandja residents to be patient as they try to put the final touches to the newly upgraded section of the local hospital, but has remained tight-lipped as to the causes of the delay and the contractors involved.

Residents at the Garden Town have in recent weeks complained that the newly upgraded section of the hospital that is supposedly complete and ready for use is still standing idle, although fully furnished, while nurses and staff are making do with old and broken equipment in the old section of the hospital that is too cramped to adequately serve patients.

“Last week I went there, and the scale is not working but the nurse admitted that the new section has brand new and fully functioning scales, among other things that are not being used because the section is apparently not yet open for use,” one resident told the Confidente.

They said the old hospital is so small that admitted patients sometimes sleep in corridors. “The hospital is small and that was the reason for the extension but now they take so long to complete it and when they finally finished everything, they don’t open it to be used. You have a new building standing there that can help a lot of patients, but they are just silent, and we don’t know what they are waiting for. The nurses also don’t know why the building is not open yet.”

Health Ministry executive director Benetus Nangombe told Confidente on enquiry that while the new building may look complete from outside, there are still minor details that need to be fixed before it can be commissioned for use.  He asked for patience from residents, saying they ran into “complications” with a contractor at a late stage of the upgrade, which halted progress.

“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.

“We have sorted out our difference 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 stated.

The upgrading and renovation of the Okahandja hospital project that started in 2008 would relieve pressure on the current cramped hospital and enable hospital staff to provide more health services than in the current one. The upgraded hospital would include outpatient and casualty services, X-ray facilities, a pharmacy, TB ward, laboratory and an ambulance, maternity and paediatric ward, theatre, as well as male and female wards.

Acknowledging the inconvenience caused by the delay, the health executive director said the ministry recognised that there is a high demand at Okahandja state hospital and that current space is inadequate to not only shelter in-house patients but even those who visit on a daily basis, as they are sometimes exposed to harsh conditions, such as rain, sun and the elements while waiting for medical services.

“We want people to have access to better health care. We realise the need and the high demand and we are everything to ensure that the facilities are modern and up to standard before opening it,” Nangombe added.