Hospital overcrowding: 192 instead of 51 in maternity ward

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Tembisa Hospital has confirmed that critically ill patients were being admitted despite wards reaching their capacity, due to high demand for healthcare services in Tembisa and surrounding areas, especially pregnant mothers.

IoL reports that this was in response to an outcry that erupted on social media following photos and posts about overcrowding at the facility, ostensibly from frustrated nurses affiliated to the Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU) who were airing their frustrations over the situation. Shared pictures show overcrowding in the hospital’s maternity ward where at some point staff had to care for 192 patients in the facility that was meant for 51 patients.

The report says the hospital acknowledged that admitting more patients than the ward could accommodate was not ideal, but said that the demand and the increase in the burden of diseases made this unavoidable. Tembisa Hospital said the situation was compounded by a lack of lower-level hospitals close by, which could be used for down referral purposes.

“With regards to the social media post, we wish to clarify some misleading information,” the hospital said. “Firstly, the ward was supposed to have four midwives; however, due to ill-health to one of the midwives, there were three midwives not two as stated in the post. In addition to that, there were three enrolled nurses and one operational manager. Altogether there were seven staff members in the ward,” it said.

“Secondly, the ward had 80 pregnant patients, not 96 as alleged. The hospital serves a population size of 1.2m and delivers more than 1 400 babies a month. This means the hospital delivers second highest number of babies in the country,” it said.

The report says the hospital also called on the community of Tembisa and surrounding areas to use primary healthcare centres and local government clinics closer to their homes, to ensure the hospital uses its resources on critical patients.

 

Sthandwa Mdlalose, a nurse with the Gauteng Health Department, had earlier posted on her Facebook page pictures depicting an overcrowded room of pregnant women in their bathrobes and hospital robes sharing benches while others lay in hospital beds, reports City Press. “This is not a joke anymore. In ward 13 today we have 96 pregnant patients, which means we are caring for 192 souls in a ward that was supposed to occupy 51 patients. That means we have more than 40 patients on the bench. They will sleep there regardless of their conditions, with two right now on the floor,” she wrote.

The report says the post garnered close to 1,000 shares and more than 1,000 comments from people commiserating with nurses on the highly pressured and overwhelming conditions they routinely find themselves working under, with limited staff and resources to help the large number of patients coming through their doors.

The post was picked up by the YNITU, which stated on its social media pages that: “The sad part is that if any of these women die or lose their babies, nurses will be used as scapegoats. We called the matron in charge, she couldn’t be bothered despite nurses reporting to her. We called the clinical manager on call. The doctor was clueless about the status of the hospital and no measures were in place to remedy the situation. It is sad when you go to work to assist a system designed to kill black lives. #DiariesOfAMadNurse #TembisaHospital.”

According to the report, the hospital’s spokesperson, Nothando Mdluli, insisted that they had 80 pregnant women admitted to the ward on Wednesday, with seven staff members on duty. “We had planned to have four registered nurses, but one fell sick so we had three. We also had three enrolled nurses and one operational manager. But yes, the 80 patients reflect an issue of overcrowding and we have been communicating that issue. We are the only hospital in north Ekurhuleni as there is no other regional or district hospital in our cluster. We really cannot turn people away. We serve a community of 1.2m people. We have a capacity of 51 beds in that ward, but we can’t turn pregnant women away because anything can happen, so we find ourselves caught between a rock and a hard place,” she said.

The report says when asked about why the hospital didn’t refer patients to other hospitals nearby, she said the other hospitals in their cluster – Steve Biko Academic Hospital and Kalafong Hospital – were both in Pretoria and many patients did not want to be taken that far away from their homes.

She said the hospital sympathised with the frustrated and overwhelmed nurses. “When nurses are trained, they are trained to care. It does take a toll on them seeing all these patients not being given care because of issues beyond (their) control. We are having talks with the provincial office to see what can be done in the interim in terms of an intervention to the overcrowding.”

IoL report
City Press report


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