The National Council standing committee on health, social welfare and labour affairs has revealed that the Katima Mulilo Hospital allegedly spends N$90 000 per trip to hire private ambulances.
This is due to a shortage of ambulances in the region, which forces the hospital to make use of private facilities, reported the committee.
However, Zambezi health director Yolandah Lisho refuted the figures quoted by the committee.
“When we use a private ambulance, we pay a price between N$30 000 to N$40 000 maximum,” Lisho said.
The committee is currently in the Zambezi region on an oversight mission to assess the state of healthcare facilities.
Another issue raised by the committee is the delivery of healthcare services in the region, which has become an uphill battle.
The committee also noted that health workers and ministry officials are decrying ageing infrastructure and medical equipment.
Other issues include a shortage of health professionals and a lack of support from the government.
Health and social services minister Kalumbi Shangula says he hasn’t seen the report and is unaware that the hospital has been hiring private ambulances.
Health ministry executive director Ben Nangombe noted that the fee depends on the distance between points the ambulance transports the patient.
“The availability of ambulances is a concern. They are never enough and they are ageing as well. But we are in the process of buying ambulances and ensuring that they are distributed equitably,” Nangombe said.
He added that what should be taken into account is the rates that are charged by service providers.
I cannot speak specifically to what you are referring to in terms of how much was spent on a trip,” he said.
He was unable to comment further until receiving more information, he said.
“Challenges are there, that’s why the ministry has taken a decision that items such as ambulances should not be treated as vehicles but should be built as medical equipment,” said Nangombe.
These challenges are not unique to the Zambezi region, as other regions also have ageing fleets, he said.
“We do not have all the ambulances that we need, but we are deploying them to ensure that patients who need to be transported get those services.”
During a visit to a clinic in Zambezi’s Mafuta village, a nurse informed the committee that he had not received a uniform from the ministry in over 17 years.
He told the committee that he buys his own uniforms, which are of poor quality and do not last long.
He expressed his concern regarding the housing conditions of nurses in the area, claiming that three nurses are often forced to share a modest two-bedroom house.
Commenting on the issue, Shangula says personnel issues are dealt with by the executive director.
“I would not be up to date with those things. They do not fall under my supervision,” noted Shangula.
Nangombe says there are challenges related to certain medical equipment and supplies.
“We are in the process of adjudicating a procurement activity of getting healthcare workers uniforms,” he said.
“It is true, the challenges are there, and that the nurse at Mafuta did not receive a uniform for more than 17 years is an anomaly. It is something that needs to be corrected,” Nangombe said.
He said regional health authorities should ensure nurses are properly equipped.