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EYE patients in northern Namibia were devastated after they were sent back home from Oshakati State Hospital because the institution had run out of equipment for operations.
Patients who came with the hopes to regaining their sight were sent back from hospitals facing a shortage of lenses and special scalpels for eye surgeries.
A source at the hospital told The Namibian they had sent back about 20 patients per week since April this year.
“Other affected regions are Ohangwena, Oshana and Oshikoto. This complaint is not new. We have sent re- quisitions to the ministry of health but got no response,” the source added.
The source added she provides free eye camps where they treat over 1 000 patients, but without equipment that is impossible.
“We cannot assist all the patients that are sent to Windhoek because the waiting list is long,” the source said.
However, health executive director Ben Nangombe told The Namibian earlier this week that he had no knowledge of the shortage of equipment for eye surgeries.
“Let me talk to the people concerned, because I am unaware of that report,” he said.
Selma Gebhard (36) says her aunt lost sight at the beginning of last year and has not received any medical assistance.
Gebhard, who is a mother of five, said her life changed completely after her aunt, Johanna Haitana became blind.
“When I took her to hospital we were sent back because there were no materials to treat her,” she said.
Gebhard said she had completely lost hope after Haitana was sent back home from one of the biggest state hospitals in the north.
“My aunt woke up completely blind in March last year. It was very shocking as this has never happened before in our family,” she said.
She added that there is so much responsibility on her as she now has to bathe and feed Haitana.
Haitana has no children and is dependent on Gebhard for her basic needs on a daily basis.
Gebhard said her only option is the Oshakati State Hospital because she cannot afford sending her aunt to Windhoek for better medical attention.
“I am unemployed and cannot afford to go to any private hospital. It is very disappointing that eye patients are being sent back home,” she said.
She added that when they arrived at the hospital, their details were written down and they were promised by the doctors they would be contacted as soon as the equipment arrived.
“We have been waiting for over two months now and until today we still have not received any calls or even an update on the way forward,” said Gebhard.
Another patient who was sent back home is 57-year-old Martha Israel, who lost her sight in 2019 and has never received any medical assistance since.
According to her daughter, Maria Haindongo, her mother was the breadwinner of the family but this all changed when she lost her sight.
“When she went blind, as sad as it was, we still had hope that she would regain her sight if we took her to the hospital,” said Haindongo.
She added that taking care of a blind person is like taking care of a baby because they are unable to dress, feed or even relieve themselves without assistance.
“We are pleading for the government to intervene and come to our rescue because we need help,” she said.
Ophthalmologist Helena Ndume described the situation as sad, because even their annual eye camp has also been postponed as a result of the risk posed by Covid-19.
“People need the assistance because if they are not treated, the patients can go completely blind,” she said.