Steve Biko Academic Hospital has blamed long queues on patients themselves. CEO Dr Mathabo Mathebula said patients arriving earlier than 04:00 are there for socialising. “They hold picnics outside the hospital and are not there for healthcare.” But, says a Pretoria Moot Rekord report, Democratic Alliance (DA) Gauteng shadow health MEC, Jack Bloom, who had earlier visited the hospital with colleague Alan Fuchs, called the hospital’s defence outrageous.
“It is an outrageous comment to make that the patients are there for socialising – no one wants to socialise at 04:00 in the morning, especially during the winter,” Bloom said. He said the hospital should not put the blame on the patients.
According to the report Mathebula said hospital operating hours for the outpatient department and pharmacy were from 07:00 to 16:00 and registration for patients who needed to collect medication was from 06:00 to 12:00. Mathebula said because patients did not adhere to these hours, with some arriving earlier than 06:00 while others stayed well after 12:00, there was often a problem with long queues. “The patients then get aggravated by those who do not even honour their appointment dates, affecting the services flow of the day,” she said.
Bloom is quoted in the report as saying that patients had told him during his visit that if they were not early they would not be able to see a doctor and would have to come back the next day. “In one case an elderly man had been there from 12 pm the previous day! Others had arrived from 8pm in the evening,” he said.
But Mathebula said all patients with appointments were always able to see a doctor. “No patient goes home without seeing a doctor on her/his appointment date,” she said, adding that the outpatient department and pharmacy operated by appointment. “Outpatient services for specific conditions are rendered on specific days of the week and therefore it would not be possible to have a patient being sent back for the following day, as that would be for a different condition,” she said.
Mathebula said the people who arrived at the hospital the night before put pressure on staff to let them in at 17:00 for their appointment the following day. “We stated categorically that the request cannot be approved because once a person is inside the hospital, the management immediately take responsibility,” she said. “The only times we can take limited responsibility is from 04:00. Full responsibility is taken when the doors of the building open at 06:00.”
Bloom said parking at the hospital was inadequate, a point Mathebula conceded but added that overflow parking was available at the hospital’s Jabulani Residence. Sadly, some patients still refuse to make use of this service.” She said she was negotiating with the Tshwane metro for permission to use other parking facilities around the hospital.
Bloom is quoted in the report as saying he was disappointed at Mathebula’s response.