The struggle to bring imaging scanners to the North

01 July 2016 | Health

One of the first local medical practitioners in Namibia, Professor Fillemon Amaambo, shared some of the challenges experienced over the last 30 years especially bringing imagining scanners to the northern part of the country.
Amaambo was speaking at the three-day World Federation of Neurological Societies (WFNS) symposium held in Ongwediva. He said patients from rural areas who needed surgery in the past suffered a lot because of a lack of qualified surgeons and equipment.
The symposium was attended by local surgeons and 14 international neurological experts from the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Egypt, France, South Africa and Kuwait.
Amaambo said neurological conditions up to the 1970s were managed mainly by general practitioners and by 2010 general surgeons started treating patients in Namibia, with most cases referred to foreign countries.
Now neurosurgery is performed by one neurosurgeon at the Ongwediva MediPark hospital, and two neurosurgeons in Windhoek.
A neurosurgeon specialises in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of disorders of the nervous system, including trauma, tumours, vascular disorders and infections of the brain or spinal cord.
Amaambo explained how the unavailability of Computerised Tomography (CT) scanners in Namibia for a long time affected the entire country. In the 1980s the nearest CT scanner was in Cape Town, South Africa.
“Criteria-guided craniotomies sometimes were successfully done but the spine and retroperitoneum remained hidden,” he said.
He said the first CT scanner in northern Namibia was installed in 2005 at Ongwediva MediPark, while the Oshakati State Hospital received theirs in 2011. By 2014, Ongwediva MediPark had installed a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner.
MRI gives different information about structures in the body than can be seen with an X-ray, ultrasound or a CT scan.
Asked about other challenges hindering the health sector, Amaambo listed poor infrastructure, lack of water and electricity, lack of proper roads, and few communication mediums.
He added that inefficient transport and referral systems also contributed to the challenges of surgery in Namibia, as patients referred to Windhoek came back untreated and some died in transit.
“Some patients referred to Windhoek had to come back with services not given. Some patients died in transit.
“There were beliefs that serve capital first, rural must wait, quality service only in the capital,” he said.
However, Amaambo said together with other stakeholders they managed to offer essential services at health facilities in the North.
“We started to believe that doing nothing is not an option and time counts. We embraced training, learning and doing research.
“We advocated for ethics and social justice in health, pursuing excellence even in trying circumstances,” he said.