Govt Buys Nurses’ Uniforms From China

Health minister Richard Kamwi announced that his ministry will turn to China to buy uniforms for State medical practitioners, a move that has been criticised by a fellow ruling party parliamentarian.

The ministry’s decision to “look east” for uniforms came under scrutiny last Friday in the National Assembly during the health budget debate where Kamwi explained their successes and efforts to improve the health sector.

“I’m pleased to inform the nation that very soon, we will receive our new uniforms. Last year, the permanent secretary and [his] team went to China and we engaged some people there, the uniform is ready,” Kamwi said.

Kamwi said permanent secretary Andrew Ndishishi will lead a team to Beijing in two weeks to look at the uniforms.

“You may also wish to know that yesterday [Thursday], as if I knew that this question will come up, I demanded for the samples.

“All our staff, including pharmacists, doctors and my able-efficient nurses. We took their measures and sizes, very soon, they will have their uniforms,” Kamwi said.

The decision by Kamwi and his team was criticised by mines and energy minister Isak Katali who reminded the lawmakers that Government has through the Ministry of Education taken a decision that all school uniforms be manufactured in Namibia.

“We now have the uniforms of nurses being ordered from China. If this is a done deal, I think it must be the first and the last,” he said.

Katali was not impressed with the decision to import uniforms, especially with the high unemployment rate among the youth which currently stands at 42%.

“We must build in-house capacity so that we can manufacture uniforms of our nurses. Maybe we can order material from outside but we must manufacture them here. I think we have the capacity,” he said.

News about sourcing uniforms from China comes after a textile factory in Arandis was closed last month, affecting more than 400 jobs, mostly women. The firm owners said they had lost a nine-year contract with the Woolworths Group.

Kamwi acknowledged that Katali has a point saying “in fact we are not going to be ordering all the way, absolutely, these are specialised areas. The first order is already made because we wanted to address the challenge we are faced with right now”.

Kamwi, who admitted that uniforms have been a challenge for the past three years, said he was approached by the army-owned garment firm August 26 and former trade union leader David Namalenga’s textile company Dinapama to provide the uniforms but he refused saying they will have to go through a public tender process.

Some MPs mocked the new uniform by mumbling the words “why wash” – referring to the quality of some Chinese clothes that are only washed once. Kamwi responded: “no no, its not that one”.

The Namibian reported last week that nursers at State hospitals have not been issued uniforms for a number of years.

Ester Paulus, the health spokesperson is expected to travel with Ndishishi to China.

The two were part of a ministerial team that went to China last year.

Paulus told The Namibian on Friday that their intentions of going to China last year was not to buy uniforms but to get designs.

However, she says, while they were there, the Namibian embassy linked them with several textile firms who made presentations to them.

“We got the samples and we liked them,” she said.

Paulus, who could not provide the name of the company nor the amount budgeted for the uniforms, said the deal is not yet done.

She could also not provide the number of uniforms but said the first consignment will be for nurses and doctors.

Meanwhile, Kamwi said he will continue conducting surprise visits to hospitals.

According to the minister, nurses and supervisors at some health centres were coming late by up to two hours but that has changed after his un-announced visits.

Source : The Namibian