Namibia: Nurses and Doctors Resolutely Treating Patients Without Protective Gloves

Health minister Kalumbi Shangula has described the shortage of medical gloves at some hospitals nationwide as a crisis.This comes after some nurses told The Namibian they have been working on patients without protective gloves.

In the Zambezi region, nurses and doctors at the Katima Mulilo District Hospital have been operating without medical gloves for the past month, and the health minister yesterday confirmed it is a national crisis.

The Katima Mulilo hospital, which currently only has one operating theatre and no specialist, and normally refers patients to Windhoek or Rundu, has increased their referrals over the past month due to a scarcity of gloves.

Nurses who spoke to The Namibian on condition of anonymity, revealed that the lack of gloves has resulted in them postponing surgeries, while daily diagnoses and effective treatment of patients are also in jeopardy.

“It’s been a dire situation to operate without medical gloves because it’s not safe for patients or for us as doctors and nurses to touch them without them. These days, we don’t do any physical examinations, we just observe and write a possible misguided diagnosis,” one nurse said.

The patients’ lives are also put in danger when we postpone their surgeries or refer them to other towns on a six or 12-hour drive. By the time they get there, their health condition has worsened. If the central medical stores are out of stock for gloves, there’s a provision to outsource, but it is not done here. It’s also the same for linen, intravenous (IV) sets and cleaning materials, but nothing is being done,” the nurses said.

Acting regional health director Richard Likokoto, when approached for a comment by The Namibian, confirmed the critical shortage of medical gloves in the region, revealing that the problem arises from their central medical stores, which are currently out of stock.

“However, we are receiving small quantities as we wait for the main order that is supposed to be received in November. I can also confirm that there is a shortage of linen, as we are waiting for the head office to issue a tender for them. Meanwhile, we are looking for an alternative option to get linen to avoid it reaching a crisis level. On cleaning materials, we do have the major ones; only a few items have run out of stock, such as toilet paper. We expect these items to be delivered early next week,” he said.

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