Zambezi health workers resume duty

Drivers and other health workers in the Ministry of Health in Zambezi Region agreed to resume transporting state patients referred from the State hospital in Katima Mulilo to bigger referral hospitals, following a dispute over outstanding Subsistence and Travel allowance (S and T) payments.

Over three weeks ago, New Era reported that the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) here was hiring drivers from the Ministry of Works and Transport after its own drivers refused to transport patients over outstanding S and T.

The drivers and other health employees including among others nurses, paramedics, primary health care workers in Katima Mulilo vowed they would not undertake any trip which requires payment unless the money they are owed, said to be about N$3 million is paid to them.

However, in a response to New Era's queries, the Acting Permanent Secretary in the MoHSS Petronella Masabane, stated they have reached an agreement with the drivers to resume their transport duties. Masabane confirmed in a statement the drivers had indeed refused to transport patients and that the ministry had to hire drivers from somewhere else.

The drivers of the MoHSS indeed stopped transporting referrals due to non-payment of their S and T since May 27, 2018. During that time, the ministry had four patients who needed urgent lifesaving interventions, others were discharged from Windhoek Central Hospital and Intermediate Hospital in Rundu who needed to be transported back to Katima Mulilo. The Chief Medical Superintendent of the Windhoek Central Hospital (Dr Dawid /Uirab) assisted the Directorate: Zambezi Region, with a driver and a bus During the same time, the District Hospital Katima Mulilo received a child with intestinal bowel obstruction as well as another orthopaedic case, who had to be urgently transported in a private ambulance, she explained.

Even though the drivers queried that the money the ministry used to hire private ambulance should have been paid to them; it was not possible since payment modalities are different, as funds budgeted for transportation of patients' referral cannot be used for the payment of daily daily S and T to staff members, said the acting health permanent secretary. Masabane also admitted the ministry did hire a driver from the Ministry of Works, after it received five emergency cases.

In all our efforts, we were not trying to ignore or belittle our colleagues' complains but in these events, the ministry had to urgently request for drivers from the GRN Garage, just to save lives. MoHSS does essential services and we vowed to save lives as a ministry responsible for providing adequate health service delivery, she explained.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia