An administrative arrangement at the Katutura State Hospital is threatening to upset the HR cart with theatre nurses complaining that they are not compensated for working in other sections when there are no or only a few emergency cases in the theatre.
Because of the increase in the number of patients over the weekends, public holidays and at night, the Theatre Staff at Katutura Hospital were instructed to be deployed to other sections or units during the time that there are no emergency cases. This instruction came in August from Dr Amagulu, the Senior Medical Superintendent and Matron Hamwaanyena, the Chief Control Registered Nurse at the hospital.
In a document made available to the Economist, Dr Amagulu stated that staff members are claiming excessive overtime leading to an overtime overspending of N$58 million and therefore it was suggested that staff had to be reduced during shifts.
The Theatre Staff responded by stating that they are already over worked and it would not be beneficial for them or their patience to reduce the number of staff on duty. A Senior Theatre Sister who has been working in the Katutura Theatre for more than 30 years, asked Dr Amagulu why the casualty section at Windhoek Central Hospital does not operate every day and night like at Katutura Hospital to relieve the overcrowding of patients at Katutura Hospital. Dr Amagulu did not know why, stating that she will find out. This was discussed at a meeting she had with the staff.
A spokesperson for the disgruntled nurses said “because of overspending on overtime some nurses have not received overtime since August 20, adding that they strive to be the best public provider with specialized health care, to provide a quality, integrated and holistic patient-centred healthcare service, while creating an environment where patients can recuperate faster. The group also stated that the Superintendent’s office should come up with other appropriate strategies on maintaining overtime spending and that if they do not get a positive response regarding this matter, they will have no other options than to seek the relief from higher authority, “because the lives of patients are valued less than money.”
The Economist visited both the Katutura and Central Hospitals to see what the current situation is only to find out that at Katutura Hospital, in many wards there were as many as 65 patients to three nurses. The casualty section had more than 100 patients waiting to be helped with only one doctor.
Central Hospital was just the opposite. Their casualty ward was closed and the wards had empty beds. The nurses at Katutura Hospital said they are not happy with their current situation and they are getting the blame from the patients.
The Economist also learned that nurses wrote a letter to Dr Amagulu stating that she should pay them overtime. They printed many copies and put them in front of her office to make sure she is informed about the brewing dispute.