Dire conditions in some hospitals but MECs claim improvements

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It takes seven hours to register for medicines in Gauteng and up to six days to be admitted to an orthopaedic ward in the Eastern Cape, but an "activist government" is delivering improved services in Gauteng and North West, the politicians claim.

A surprise visit to Sebokeng Hospital in Johannesburg by Gauteng Premier David Makhura and Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku found improved services and the reduction of waiting times, reports News24. Makhura and Masuku conducted the surprise visit on Wednesday of last week as part of a commitment made in his State of the Province Address to create an "activist government".

The report says the hospital, located in the Sedibeng District Municipality, has been one of the premier's areas of concern following complaints from patients.

"Since my last visit three years ago, I have seen some improvements, with the hospital getting new equipment that has aided the delivery of improved, quality patient care. However, there are still some challenges. I have given the MEC 100 days to develop solid plans that will resolve healthcare challenges in the province," Makhura said.

He added the focus of the sixth administration would be on improving the quality of primary healthcare as part of the provincial government's plans to overhaul the public healthcare system in Gauteng.

The report says the premier also visited a wastewater plant, following the intervention of the South African National Defence Force to repair the Sebokeng waste water plant and find solutions to decontaminate the Vaal River. "I would like to express my humble gratitude to the army for their patriotic work; for stepping in to assist our communities and ensuring that we resolve the sewer infrastructure problems on the Vaal River," added Makhura.


North West Health is working tirelessly to improve access to primary healthcare by increasing operating hours. The Citizen reports that this is according to MEC Madoda Sambatha, who said: “In the next 12 months, we will increase 24-hour service availability by an additional nine health facilities from the current 68. The number will increase by at least ten health facilities per year for the next five years, targeting the most rural communities in a manner that address equity of access to health services.”

Sambatha said, tabling a more than R12bn departmental budget for the financial year 2019/2020 at the provincial legislature: “As part of relieving hospitals from the burden of an excess of patients who should be treated at primary healthcare level, we will also include Mafikeng Gateway Clinic and Taung Gateway Clinic to operate 24-hour services.”

Primary healthcare facilities that will be prioritised for 24-hour service include Sekhing, Moshana community health centres and Matsheng, Weltevreden, Madibogopan, Obakeng, Bethanie and Madikwe clinics while Buxton clinic would have operating hours extended to 12 hours.

The report says the expansion of operating hours would be linked to bursaries offered by the department at the North West Nursing College and North West University. The two institutions produced 475 nurses in both basic and post-basic courses last year and they are currently serving the people of North West.

Sambatha said in the report that the department would unveil an electronic patient appointment booking system to address challenges of long queues and overcrowding at hospitals and clinics.

Joe Morolong Hospital has entered into an agreement with Braun Renal Care Unit on the provision of renal dialysis services. “This partnership brings dialysis services closer to home for the people of Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District. The district has been relying on referring patients to other facilities especially to Klerksdorp-Tshepong Hospital and I am pleased that the traveling will now end,” the report quotes the MEC as saying.

Sambatha said the department had embarked on the re-organisation of the Mmabatho Medical Store and the provincial management of pharmaceutical services in systems and human resources to improve medicine availability through rational use and effective ordering, warehousing, distribution and payment systems.

“This is a massive process involving 13 work streams at the Medical Store and 12 work streams at provincial and district levels.

“This re-organisation process has to be appropriately resourced in order to achieve the desired result of improved medicine availability in an acceptable time period,” he said in the report.


However, negative reports from other hospitals and provinces persist. According to a Daily Dispatch report, it found 26 patients, many with broken or dislocated bones or flesh wounds, lying on the floor, on benches and on stretchers in Frere Hospital's corridor and waiting room. It says that the patients had waited desperately – for six days in one case – for a bed in the East London hospital's orthopaedic ward.

The report says that some of the injured on the floor had been provided with hospital-issue foam mattresses and 6 hospital stretchers on wheels were lined up against the wall in the corridor, waiting for a space in the ward.

The report says inside the orthopaedic ward four doctors and three nurses were seen hard at work treating patients, but not once during the hour spent there, did a nurse or doctor appear to check on the 27 patients outside the ward. The waiting area was lined with benches.

Eastern Cape Health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo confirmed the shortage of beds in the orthopaedic ward which he blamed on a spate of car crash injuries across the province. "The shortage of beds is due to a high number of accidents that occur in the province." However, he disputed that the patients were in pain, or were lying in a waiting area normally used by visitors.

Kupelo said in the report: "We refute claims that patients are allowed to wait in the queue while in pain. There is an area within the casualty area where patients are seen by nurses and doctors while still waiting for bed availability in the ward." He said nurses continued treating the injured outside the ward.

The report says in a statement released on Monday 8 July, provincial transport spokesperson Unathi Binqose said 14 people had died on the first weekend of July on Eastern Cape roads. He did not say how many had been injured. Binqose attributed the crashes to large traffic volumes on July 7 due to the conclusion of the Makhanda National Arts Festival and reopening of schools for the third term. But, the report quotes festival spokesperson Sascha Polkey as saying they had not heard of any festival-goer being injured on the way home.

In the waiting area, it was learned that many of the injured had been referred from other hospitals in far-flung areas including Komani and Ngqamakhwe. The report says 7 patients interviewed spoke of their pain, lack of care, suffering and fears. Car crash patient Lukhanyiso Matshoba, 28, from Komani, said he was told he had broken vertebrae, an arm and both legs. He said he had been on the stretcher waiting to be admitted to the ward since last Tuesday. He said he was number four in line for a bed and was told to wait for other patients to be discharged in order to get a bed in the ward.

He said he last took a bath earlier on the day of the accident on 9 July. "These conditions are worse than those of prisons; we stink here. This is jail," fumed Matshoba. He said: " I was injured in a car accident on Tuesday and was transferred here from Komani. "I have been waiting on this stretcher in this small area next to the other patients. I have seen patients admitted after me getting beds ahead of me. They were not as critical as me. I asked the nurses and doctors why I was being overlooked and I never got a clear answer."

Qhama Mdyogolo, 23, from Dimbaza, said in the report: "I don't want to lose my arm. They are not changing the bandages so I changed it myself because once the infections spreads, that will mean they will have to cut off the arm. I have not received pills for pain since the morning. I am in pain." Mdyogolo said he broke his left arm and severed veins in his right arm when he joined the community in rescuing neighbours trapped in their burning home.

Siphesande Siko, 31, from Keiskammahoek, said he was admitted four days ago. Speaking from the wooden bench where he lay covered by a thin blanket, he said: "I was hacked with a bush knife during a fight."

Shaheeda Johannes of Pefferville said her 14-year-old son Shaidin who was admitted for a mysterious insect bite, had been sleeping on the bench at the entrance of the ward since Saturday as he awaited blood test results. Johannes is quoted in the report as saying she finally pleaded with doctors to allow her to take him home. "They said they will make me sign a form stating that they won't be held liable should he die at home. How long does it take to get test results? I can't bear watching him sleeping on this bench. He has a comfortable bed at home."


And Gauteng Health’s Masuku says it takes an average of nearly seven hours to register, see a doctor and collect medicine at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria. The Times reports that Masuku was answering a query from Democratic Alliance (DA) member of the provincial legislature Jack Bloom, who said: "According to Masuku, the current recorded average waiting times are as follows: time to register, two hours; time to see a doctor, two hours 46 minutes; time to collect medicine, one hour 58 minutes. This totals six hours 44 minutes, which is the average figure, but many patients wait longer than this which is why they come very early in the morning to be in the front of the queue."

Bloom said while priority one patients at casualty were seen almost immediately, priority two patients (the "walking wounded") waited on average an hour and 36 minutes.
"These long waiting times are of great concern. Some patients even have to return the next day."

He said in the report while he agreed that pressure needed to be taken off the Steve Biko Hospital, there was a need for upgraded alternative health facilities "otherwise people will continue to bypass them".

"The hospital needs to fill staff vacancies, fix broken equipment and use technology to become more efficient," Bloom said.

News24 report The Citizen report Daily Dispatch report The Times report

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