After yet another glimpse into conditions at a government hospital via social media posts, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health has been galvanised into considering an oversight visit to the Khayelitsha District Hospital (KDH).
The posts showed patients sleeping on the floor and in chairs, with people sharing their personal experiences at the hospital, reports Cape Argus.
In January, similar circumstances led the ANC in the province to visit the hospital, where they found not just a chronic shortage of staff and beds, resulting in patients sleeping on the floor, but also that “structural challenges” were affecting the quality of care at the hospital.
It then asked the provincial Health and Wellness Department to allocate an additional R150m to the hospital, as was requested by the hospital’s management when it appeared before the Standing Committee on Health. However, during the department’s budget vote 2022/23 in the same month, the provision was not made.
At the time, KDH CEO David Binza said the hospital had a 340-bed capacity which was frequently exceeded by 130% and more. He said 369 posts were needed at the hospital, including clinical, support staff and allied health services posts.
He attributed the hospital’s shortcomings to rapid population growth in the area, underfunding, staff and bed shortages.
The ANC’s provincial health spokesperson, Rachel Windvogel, said the hospital’s challenges had been ongoing for years and were close to saturation point. She said patients were sleeping on the floors in 2018 already, when the National Council of Provinces conducted an oversight visit that culminated in the Sigogo Petition on KDH. She said rapid population growth, rising poverty levels, drugs and substance abuse and violent crimes were adding to the service pressures at the hospital.
The committee’s chairperson, Dr Kenny Jacobs, said they are not conducting oversight visits as Parliament is in recess but having seen the pictures of patients sleeping on the floor, he would engage the committee for an unofficial visit. He said the committee had to apply through structures to conduct official oversight visits.
Western Cape Department of Health (Khayelitsha Eastern Substructure) spokesperson Abulele Dyasi said the past weekend was busy with trauma cases and the emergency team was under enormous pressure. She said this affected patient waiting times, and patients who were triaged as green or yellow had to wait longer.
“To ensure we treat people with life-threatening and urgent conditions first, we triage patients on arrival according to the seriousness of their condition. Sometimes they choose to sit or sleep in the waiting area because they prefer not to go home when discharged in the evening, for safety reasons, or while they are waiting to be fetched by family,” she said.
Dyasi said the health system was experiencing mental health pressures at all levels, and the department was putting plans in place to relieve it by strengthening specialised referral systems and community and primary health care mental health services.
The department reiterated that there had been no submission received for an additional R150m to address challenges at the hospital.
See more from MedicalBrief archives: