State sponsored heart patients have been left to the mercy of God after the Windhoek Central Hospital Cardiac Unit stopped performing lifesaving procedures in February due to a lack of funding and the absence of a cardiologist.
Sources told the Windhoek Observer this week that state patients at the unit, which was commissioned in 2010, have been getting a raw deal from the state after it failed to renew Dr Simon Beshir’s contract.
Dr Beshir is said to be the only cardiologist in the country working for the state
The cardiologist, who also works at the Roman Catholic Heart Centre in Windhoek, has since been offering free services to only 10 patients every Thursday.
It is feared that should he withdraw his free services, this could spell doom for many of the patients who cannot afford to visit private hospitals for the same services.
“So far patients on chronic medication have been renewing prescriptions without being seen by doctor,” a patient told the Windhoek Observer this week.
Dr Beshir declined to talk when contacted for comment.
He referred the Windhoek Observer to the Ministry of Health and Social Services Public Relations Officer Manga Libita who did not respond to questions sent to her email.
Another source who spoke to the Windhoek Observer on condition of anonymity said government does not have the money to pay Dr Beshir his normal fees because of the current austerity measures introduced across all ministries and departments.
“The problem is that this financial crisis is affecting every single department of the government - the problem is global. The country's economy was based mostly on government spending. Now spending is close to zero and the economy has tanked. The cardiac unit is just one of many services affected,” the source said.
There are reports that some patients at the unit have died after they failed to access the critical healthcare services they needed.
“Of course there are some casualties. Right now the situation is critical,” a source familiar with the work of the cardiac unit said.
“The department is trying to find a solution, but it is difficult since all of its operations and other competing operations at the hospital are being financed through government.”
He said there is a proposal on the table to have state patients who suffer a heart attack be transferred to private hospitals where they can be operated from and thereafter transferred back to state hospitals.
Another solution is to get private funding from people willing to donate money to state hospitals or to engage private hospitals and doctors so that they can help state patients for free.
“Everyone has to give their time to state patients, but most don’t. Senior doctors should be forced to work for the state on a part time basis. Everyone has to play their part especially private hospitals. They have to sacrifice some of their profits,” the source said adding that the unit is not allowed to hire more people to fill in critical positions such as nurses and doctors or paying nurses for overtime.
“It is not easy for people running the hospitals because everyone is shouting that they need money. We can’t really blame management because they are trying their best under difficult circumstances.”
The Windhoek Observer also understands that there is only one cardiac technologist working at the cardiac unit. A radiologist at the unit, a Dr Phyn, is also said to be offering his services free of charge.
Information provided by the cardiac unit in April showed that the Windhoek Central Hospital has successfully attended to 104 patients requiring open heart surgery, 318 open-heart and related procedures were conducted at the unit.
Over 6,000 adults and children were served at the outpatient department of the cardiac clinic between April 2018 and March 2019.
Prime Minister Saara Kuungongelwa-Amadhila assured staff members of government’s continued support during a tour of the unit in April.
“Where you require us, we are not prepared to say that we cannot do it,” she said.