The Ministry of Health and Social Services has urged patients to cooperate with healthcare workers when seeking medical assistance at hospitals and clinics.
This was said by health ministry spokesperson Walters Kamaya last week.
Kamaya was commenting on the alleged abuse of two nurses by a man who escorted a patient to the Katutura Health Centre’s observation emergency room last Monday evening.
The nurses, who preferred anonymity, said it is not the first time they have encountered such behaviour from patients’ relatives.
“It can be an everyday occurrence. We get insulted for not meeting their expectations,” one of the nurses said.
The other nurse said working night shift is not always safe as the security guard guards the centre’s main entrance only, leaving unauthorised individuals to enter consultation and waiting rooms.
“We mostly ignore them and continue with our work, however, there are times when we are forced to retaliate,” one of the nurses said.
The alleged incident on Monday night took place when a patient visited the centre at 22h00, accompanied by about five people.
The patient was already screened by nurses and was waiting for a doctor to attend to her.
Three of the men who accompanied the patient allegedly kept entering the patient’s room to ask when a doctor would attend to her.
They allegedly complained of delayed service at the clinic, and said they would take the patient to Katutura Intermediate Hospital, where she would receive better treatment.
“We explained to them calmy that there was only one doctor on duty, and there were many patients to be attended to,” the nurse said.
One man allegedly entered the room and asked the nurses if they could take the patient to another hospital.
The nurses claim they said it’s up to the group.
The man then allegedly refused to leave the room, upon which one of the nurses escorted him out.
The man then allegedly took out his mobile phone to record the involved nurse.
“I will record you, say that again. You said I can take our patient if I want to, right”? the man allegedly yelled.
Kamaya said the ministry has contracted a security company to guard the facilities 24/7 and to protect the property and staff.
“Healthcare workers who encounter unruly behaviour from patients are encouraged to report this to their supervisors for further action and intervention.
“We encourage all patients and families to cooperate with healthcare workers and allow them to execute their duties without hindrance. Patients who assault patients can be arrested by the police if their actions amount to criminal conduct,” Kamaya said.
Junias Shilunga of the Namibia Nurses’ Union says the issue of safety at hospital workplaces is critical, and that the union has addressed the health ministry on this before.
“We have been getting reports from different hospitals on harassment and sometimes physical fights from members of the public.
“The government needs to put safety measures in place, and we are suggesting that all health centres be guarded by the police,” he says.
Shilunga is urging nurses to open cases at the police and to continue reporting them to the union.
Windhoek-based psychologist Shaun Whittaker says it can be very discouraging for nurses to experience abuse by patients.
“State nurses are burnt out due to work overload and being understaffed,” he says.
“The public should give nurses recognition, because they are at the frontline of the healthcare service,” he says.
“It must be so stressful for them to be verbally abused,” Whittaker says.