Friday, July 19, 2024

Namibia: Unfair Burden On Nurses, Midwives Exposes Govt's Lack of Accountability

Namibia’s nurses and midwives face an unjust burden, raising serious concerns about the government’s lack of accountability and transparency in public health budgeting.

Newspapers have reported on a circular issued by the authorities that restricts nurses to claiming only a fraction of their overtime work.

This has sparked outrage and highlights a distressing pattern of poor governance and leadership in our healthcare system.

Unicef’s Health Namibia Budget Brief presents alarming figures that demand immediate attention.

Despite Namibia’s total health expenditure trending above the 15% Abuja target for the past five years, the allocation of funds remains disproportionately skewed.

Shockingly, the government spends more on the approximately 12% of the population comprising civil servants than on the 80% of Namibians who depend on the public health system.

The ministry of health’s budget for 2022/23 allocates a substantial 40,1% to the Public Service Employee Medical Aid Scheme (Psemas), further emphasising skewed priorities.

The repercussions of this leave the majority of Namibians heavily reliant on the public health system, struggling to access adequate care.


Logically, personnel expenditure accounting for 51,7% of the health budget, should lead to a well-staffed and efficient healthcare system.

However, this is far from the reality as evidenced by the significant gaps in critical health personnel in Namibia.

With only 0,6 physicians and two nurses per 1 000 people, these numbers pale in comparison to averages seen in upper-middle-income countries with 2,3 physicians and 3,4 nurses per 1 000 people.

Even more distressing is that an estimated 62% of Namibia’s health professionals are concentrated in the private sector, catering to just 20% of the population.

This not only leaves most Namibians underserved, but exacerbates already pressing staffing gaps in the public health sector.

The directive capping overtime claims for nurses and midwives at 18 hours a month is an unwarranted imposition on their dedication and commitment to patient care.

Nurses and midwives, who reportedly work an average 40 hours of overtime a month are now expected to forfeit fair compensation for their extra efforts.

This is an indication of the government’s disregard for the well-being of its healthcare workforce, leading to inevitable burnout and reduced morale.

The nursing and midwife community plays a pivotal role in providing quality healthcare to the public, and their relentless efforts should be recognised and appreciated.

The government’s actions indicate disregard for their invaluable contribution.


Moreover, the move to restrict nurses’ overtime claims serves as a diversionary tactic.

It deflects attention from deeper underlying issues of poor governance and a lack of transparency in budget allocation.

By using nurses and midwives as scapegoats, the government is conveniently avoiding accountability for its mismanagement of resources in the health sector.

As a public health lawyer, it is my solemn duty to advocate the rights and welfare of healthcare workers as they are the backbone of any functional healthcare system.