After a prolonged closure, the casualty unit at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital has finally reopened, but the hospital’s critical trauma and emergency unit remain closed to ‘walk-in’ emergency patients.
An upgraded fire detection and alarm system has also been installed, and three officials have been arrested for theft and vandalism of the hospital’s CT scanner, said Health Minister Joe Phaahla, at an inspection of the facility on Monday (9 May).
“There will be no walk-in patients into the accident and emergency unit. For now, it’s only [open] for [the] arranged transfer of patients who have been seen in other centres. This will relieve pressure on other facilities,” he said, adding that the trauma and emergency unit would be reopened in phases, with completion of the rebuild scheduled for November 2023.
Daily Maverick reports that only two of the seven accident and emergency areas in the unit have reopened.
Dr Jayshina Punwasi, clinical director at Charlotte Maxeke, said she expected another one of these areas to reopen by Wednesday this week (11 May) and the remaining areas to become operational as soon as the long-awaited repair and calibration of the unit’s CT scanner been been done.
Phaahla said a missing part required for the CT scanner repairs that had been sourced overseas had finally arrived in South Africa on Monday morning, and the reopening of these areas could happen in days.
The National Department of Health acknowledged in April that there had been vandalism and theft at the unit.
The hospital is currently running at between 75% and 80% of full operation, with about 800 admitted patients: it serves some 50,000 outpatients monthly.
Concerns remain that even as units and departments return to full operation, there are no plans to clear patient backlogs. This pressure has added to sinking staff morale, resulting in numerous resignations from Joburg’s key public sector hospital.
Gladys Bogoshi, the CEO of CMJAH, confirmed the hospital had 11% staff vacancies, with 643 positions needing to be filled out of a total staff complement of 5,500.
The rebuild of the casualty department is part of the Block 1 oversight that has been funded by the Solidarity Fund, and this unit has been issued an occupational health and safety certificate for fire safety by the City of Johannesburg.
Professor Maeyane Moeng, the head of trauma at CMJAH, said the rebuild in this unit had seen the use of reinforced walling that can withstand heat for longer, and new fire doors to contain fire and smoke. An upgraded fire detection and alarm system had also been installed, which could “pinpoint exactly where a fire is coming from.
Questions were asked about corruption plaguing the rebuild, politicking, departmental infighting and interference, and a lack of accountability on why the hospital was not maintained in the first place, which allowed a fire to burn out of control. Phaahla said handing over responsibility for the rebuild to the National Department of Health’s facilities and infrastructure arm in February had put the remedial work back on track.
“We accept there have been a lot of delays and a number of things which we have highlighted, and iwhere we need to close gaps.”
Three officials have been arrested from the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure and Development in connection with theft and vandalism linked to the CT scanner.
The updated building target deadlines include remedial work for Obstetrics and Gynaecology by March 2023; Paediatrics by July 2023; Surgery by October 2023; and Block 3 and Internal Medicine by November 2023.
See more from MedicalBrief archives: