Onandjokwe Hospital, the kingdom of cats

• BY MARX ITAMALO

FOR the six weeks that patient Tulongeni Matheus has been in ward two at the Onandjokwe district hospital of Oshikoto region, he has had many companions, albeit not of his kind or like, but in the form of cats.

Matheus has become accustomed to the sight of the felines, roaming freely in his room, searching and looking for food without any fear of mankind. They steal his food and walk on his bed as they wish. The same goes with his roommates.

“I can tell you my brother this has been going on since I came here. Fellow patients that I found here have told me they found the situation the same and there is nothing being done about it,” he told Confidente this week.

According to him, cats come in the ward through open windows, and when windows are closed, they enter the through the main door and nurses do nothing about it.

“Aaye, onduuvite kutya Oshipangelo shOnandjokwe mbela osha ningapo ombala yuumbishi” he said in the local Oshindonga dialect –which loosely translates to- “No, I think Onandjokwe hospital has become the kingdom of cats”.

When Confidente visited the hospital this week, entering several wards, felines could be seen wandering and roaming freely in rooms unperturbed. Patients told this publication that it was not an uncommon sight.

“Here we are living with cats all the time. They enter the rooms and leave as they please. The nurses do nothing about them and porters and cleaners have told us this is the culture in Onandjokwe. What else can we do? You just hide and store your food properly so that it does not get stolen and eaten by the cats,” stressed Ruben Kandume, another patient in the male ward two, a ward for male patients with physical injuries.

In ward one, which is for female patients, the situation is not different. Emma Amagulu sleeps on her hospital bed listening to the radio. The announcer is reading the 13h00 news bulletin in the Oshiwambo vernacular. She scratches her head and lets out a deep yawn.

“You can see for yourself. What else do you want me to tell you? There are the cats and they are troubling us. The hospital management is doing nothing about it and it appears everything is normal here,” she said upon inquiry relating to the cats situation in the hospital. Amagulu told Confidente cats constantly steal her food when she is sleeping.

“Last night we had sausage and porridge. I was tired and did not have the appetite to eat and put the food in my drawer which does not have a door. When I woke up … nothing. All gone. It happens every day. Cats are ruling here and I think there are hundreds if not thousands of them,” she stressed.

A nurse working at the hospital informed Confidente on condition of anonymity during the visit that the cat problem has been plaguing the hospital for many years now and that management had failed to address it, leading to cats breeding and invading the hospital in large numbers.

“You see, I have been working here for 12 years now. The problem was not as bad as it is now. The problem is, management did not take it seriously from the beginning. But now it’s worse. Wherever you go, there are cats. They won’t remove them easily. They exist in large numbers now. It has become a big problem now,” the nurse stated.

According to the source, several attempts were made in the past years to poison and kill the cats but to no avail. “Paife otweetha ngaa nee. Kalunga opweeli (Now we have just let it go, God is there).”

Confidente could not obtain comment from the hospital superintendent, Dr Pavlov but a senior administrator at the hospital informed this publication that management is aware of the problem and efforts are afoot to address it.

“It is known. The leadership is aware of the complaints. They are busy coming up with a solution. But I don’t think it will be an easy task,” she told this newspaper. Meanwhile patients and their relatives alike are calling for more action from the hospital. “They should do something and remove the cats. We cannot live like this. How can sick people live among cats? What is that? Onandjokwe should do something,” Kandume said.