The Treatment Action Campaign and SECTION27 have condemned what they have referred to as a “hospital nightmare” in the Free State‚ saying they are receiving reports of a crisis emerging hourly from across hospitals in the province.
“We are receiving reports of entire hospitals being shut down‚ patients being turned away from full and overcrowded facilities‚ maternity wards filled with women on floors‚ shut down in overfull casualty and trauma units. The situation is untenable and must be addressed as an emergency‚” the health rights organisations said in a report in
“We are receiving reports of entire hospitals being shut down‚ patients being turned away from full and overcrowded facilities‚ maternity wards filled with women on floors‚ shut down in overfull casualty and trauma units. The situation is untenable and must be addressed as an emergency‚” the health rights organisations said in a report in The Times.
According to the report, they said staff at Manapo Hospital in Phuthaditjhaba‚ Qwa Qwa‚ were currently on strike and that all emergencies were being redirected to the already overcrowded Dihlabeng Hospital in Bethlehem‚ more than 50 kilometres away.
“Dihlabeng Hospital is almost full and cannot accept many of the additional patients. The maternity wards are over capacity and women are lying across the floors. The casualty and trauma unit has been unable to respond to a roadside accident where a truck overturned today given a lack of capacity‚” they charged. The Thebe and EL Ross hospitals in the Manapo district were also both overfull‚ according to the organisations.
“Reports from Thebe Hospital show that it cannot accept any caesarians due to there being no theatre lights and not enough doctors on call to operate. A lack of beds means patients are lying on floor beds.” The Reitz Hospital had “to all extents and purposes shut down since 2014”. Only the maternity and emergency wards were open.
“The facilities in the rest of the hospital appear to be properly equipped and appropriately renovated. There is no reason for the hospital to remain closed‚” the organisations said. They stated that specialists at Bongani Hospital were reported to be threatening to resign.
“Professional nurses are in discussions to decide about imminent strike action. Further despite promises‚ the hospital clinic has been shut down without discussions with nearby clinics to ensure they could accommodate the additional patients‚” they added.
The report says the organisations demanded urgent intervention by President Jacob Zuma and Premier Ace Magashule. “If urgent action is not taken to turnaround this crisis‚ we will be forced to yet again embark on a campaign of civil disobedience in order to save the lives of those reliant on the failing public healthcare system in the province‚” they warned.
Meanwhile, an ongoing strike at Monapo Hospital, in QwaQwa region, is not only set to continue, but other hospitals in the area are now threatening to join the action. Health-e News reports that workers at the large government hospital began their strike on 9 September, and still no resolution has been reached.
Tsoleli Mosikili, head of communication for Monapo Hospital, said there were several reasons for the strike action. These included the fact that kitchen and security staff were insourced, a general staff shortage, unpaid overtime worked, demands for more fulltime staff to be permanently appointed, the removal of expensive mobile toilets and complaints against the appointment of Buthelezi Ambulances which are suspected to have been acquired irregularly. He said the strike had been co-ordinated by the National Health, Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), and was continuing.
Patients at Monapo Hospital were battling as they were not receiving enough food as kitchen staff had joined the strike. Toilets were not being properly cleaned and sanitation was becoming an issue. “It’s a sad situation. Our lives depend on nurses and now there are no nurses around to help us, we don’t know what to expect next,” said one patient.
Nurses and doctors who have worked up to 16 hours on a shift have only been paid for 10 hours.
“We do have a shortage of staff,” Mosikili said, explaining that these were due to issues like staff being transferred to other hospitals, some going on pension and some dying. Mosikili said the hospital was anxious to see all the challenges raised by the union resolved, and called on staff to return to work while negotiations continued. “People should come to work because this is not about us, but our patients. Workers need to remember the pledge they took and stick to it,” he said.
Sibongile Mtimkulu, CEO of Manapo Hospital, said there were currently no nurses, no cleaners and no porters available to transport patients. No emergencies could be handled, the hospital was dirty and about 70% of staff had failed to report for duty, she said. This was despite a request by health officials for staff to report to work.
Nehawu regional secretary Maurice Mopeli said workers would continue striking until their demands were adequately met. Three other hospitals in the region – Elizabeth Ross, Thebe and Dihlabeng Hospital – have also threatened to strike.