The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has raised concerns about healthcare facilities across Gauteng after touring the Mamelodi Hospital which has been in the headlines for poor service.
“There is a need to address issues concerning critical staff shortages because that has far-reaching consequences. Staff shortages translate to bad staff attitudes, high incidents of absenteeism, healthcare workers being overburdened and low staff morale,” the SAHRC’s provincial manager Buang Jones is quoted in an IoL report as saying.
Jones said the SAHRC was also taken to the exact site where 76-year-old Martha Marais was tied to a hospital steel bench – an incident which was recorded on video and caused outrage on social media and protests at the hospital. “The commission has taken instructions from her (Marais) to secure appropriate redress,” said Jones.
He said the SAHRC has observed that there were several challenges at the hospital which limited the provision of quality service to patients. “We have observed that in the casualty unit they don’t have proper ventilation. There’s is also a shortage of beds. That is something that is concerning. All this points to the state of health (provision) in Gauteng. It is compromised due to some of these factors. We hope that the sixth administration of the Gauteng provincial government will prioritise healthcare and refurbishing of healthcare facilities – some of which are in shambles,” said Jones.
“We have also noted that at this hospital they don’t have a full-time CEO. That is also a concern because you need stability at the top to ensure that we have a functioning healthcare facility. Those are my preliminary views and assessment of the situation at this hospital.”
According to the report, he said the Mamelodi Hospital staff were “very cooperative” during the SAHRC site inspection.
Mamelodi Hospital’s quality assurance manager Maesela Phogole said the Marais incident, and the general complaints about poor service at the hospital were regrettable. “At the end of the day, we are here to render quality care to our patients. It’s one of the ministerial priorities to ensure that access (to healthcare) is gotten from our institutions. We will continue monitoring what is happening at the hospital,” said Phogole.
The report says interacting with the SAHRC, some nurses at the busy hospital also highlighted the overcrowding which they said was a huge problem.
Staff shortages and a lack of beds are among the chief challenges faced by doctors and nurses at the hospital. Others problems include inadequate ventilation and no seclusion rooms for mentally ill patients. The Times reports that Jones, said the purpose of the site visit was to examine a number of factors, including infrastructure and human resources issues – to ascertain whether patients were receiving proper health care. “This is on the back of what happened (to Marais). We will also look at the state of the hospital equipment,” he said.
It emerged that the challenges started right in the reception area, where there was a “challenge of waiting time”. “The ideal waiting time is 160 minutes but we are far above that. We are on 240 minutes,” Phogole told Jones during the visit. Phogole attributed the long waiting time to a shortage of administrative staff at reception. He told Jones that the hospital has a shortage of doctors and nurses.
The hospital’s casualty area is the busiest, according to officials. Scores of people were waiting on benches while waiting to be attended. Others could be seen lying on the floor.
The report says referring to the Marais incident, Dr Adeleye Awolola said the woman had been waiting for a doctor. “She was sitting on the bench. We just don’t know how she ended up underneath it. The thing is, when a confused person is sitting, they can find their way anywhere,” Awolola said.
He said Marais should not have been restrained on the bench, but because there was a problem with the shortage of beds, she could not be taken into a ward. “If we have an acutely psychotic patient, you can ask security to help you in restraining the patient. If we don’t have sufficient beds, security personnel are not able to manage the patient at all.”
Phuphuma Mthombeni, a nurse at casualty, said overcrowding was a huge problem. “We have a shortage of nurses, a shortage of resources such as stock. So we try to improvise most of the time,” Mthombeni said. She said when they were out of stock, they asked other hospitals to replenish it. She said they were not able to adequately perform their duties because of the challenges they faced.
Mthombeni said the casualty area also did not have ventilation. “When you leave the building and go outside you can tell the difference in how you breathe. The patients become irritable with us and they blame us for things we have no control over,” Mthombeni is quoted in the report as saying.
She said they got about 25 patients on an average day and the number increases to more than 40 on weekends.
According to the report, Jones said the SAHRC would write a follow-up letter to the hospital following the site visit.
See also: Doctors and nurse on ‘leave’ following video of patient abuse