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From Nyangabgwe referral to Nyangabgwe referring hospital

Kabelo Dipholo
READY FOR TAKE-OFF: Hospital and private ambulances

1 517 pregnancies referred to private hospitals since 2020

All the three theatres not operational

NyangabGwe Referral Hospital has over the years attracted so much negativity. The ‘slaughter house’ is just one of the many unflattering name tags, wryly amusing for a hospital founded on so much goodwill in 1989 as the biggest health institution in the northern part of Botswana.

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The institution has been attacked by both patients, staff and political leaders.

Of recent, the hospital has acquired a new tag name of Nyangabgwe ‘Referring’ Hospital, coming from the facility’s knack for referring most of it’s patients to other institutions.

This week, concerned hospital employees shared harrowing tales about the controversial facility.

One employee said he suspected that some senior members of staff could be engaged in a self-enriching scheme at the expense of government and other employees.

He said he was suspicious that “someone has set up a private ambulance base in the hospital because Nyangabgwe has decided to engage private ambulances for duties that were naturally done by government ambulances”.

“Ambulance drivers spend their days loitering in the hospital premise, while privately owned cars come and leave throughout the day,” he said.

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An ambulance driver interviewed by The Voice said they’re worried that soon they’ll be told to go home.

“We’re being pushed out of work. Why are our duties being outsourced, while we spend the whole day sitting under tree shades?” he asked.

“The hospital seems to be outsourcing everything. I’ve counted 60 pregnant ladies who were referred to private hospitals for deliveries this month alone. This hospital is no longer safe. All the theatres are not operational as we speak,” revealed the worried driver.

The hospital’s Public Relations Officer, Wada Pedzani, however told The Voice that there’s a logical explanation to every issue raised by the concerned staff members.

Not denying the use of private ambulances, Pedzani said just like other health facilities across the country, Nyangabgwe Hospital is promoting the use of Public Private Partnerships (PPP) to improve service delivery.

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She said the partnership with the private health sector in transportation of patients is only done when there’s shortage of ambulances, and when the hospital has to refer patients to places like South Africa, Gaborone, Lobatse or Molepolole.

Pedzani further said private ambulances come in handy during emergencies, as there’ll be no need for the hospital to provide escorting nurses and drivers.

“It is also important to note that the private health facilities also provide transportation of patients freely if the patients are referred to their facilities. The arrangement significantly helps to address the issue of shortage of staff. Instead of escorting patients, the nurse will be available to provide service in the hospital,” she said.

Pedzani further told The Voice that this arrangement has not affected the hospital ambulance drivers in anyway as they continue to do their daily duties.
“We only engage private ambulances when we don’t have capacity or in case of emergencies,” responded Pedzani.


Responding to allegations of broken theatre equipment, the hospital’s mouthpiece did concede that their theatres are not functioning optimally because of a substandard cooling system.

“The company is on site and the project is taking a bit longer to be completed because material used is sourced outside the country,” she said.

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EMPTY: Nyangabgwe’s medical ward

Despite the persisting cooling system challenges in the theatres, Pedzani said a few medical surgeries are still being carried out, with more patients referred to private hospitals.

Referrals of patients to private institutions have been increasing in the last three years. According to Pedzani, on average, Nyangabgwe refers 15 expectant mothers to private hospitals in a week.

This year alone, 622 expectant mothers were referred to private health facilities for deliveries.

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“In 2020, we had 335 referrals while 2021 we had 560 referrals to private health facilities. These numbers are going up due to the number of patients the hospital is seeing in the midst of limited resources,” she said.

The PRO dismissed allegations of possible collusion between staff members and their business partners on referrals of patients.

She explained that the hospital has a procedure in place to manage referral cases with relevant officers to make rightful decisions.

She says the referring doctor has to state reasons for referrals while the Case Management office, which is in charge of all referrals, thoroughly checks conditions of the referral facility.

“Management has the right to cancel the referral and inform the referring medical officer of the decision taken,” concluded Pedzani.

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