Khayelitsha Hospital lacks supplies, beds, staff unsafe

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

With mounting concerns about patient care and staff shortages, provincial health minister Nomafrench Mbombo yesterday launched her strategy for the next five years.

Mbombo’s office did not make the plan available when Weekend Argus requested to see it as, its spokesperson said, “some of it might still change”.

It seeks to address staff shortages, salary increase demands and bed shortages at public health facilities in the Western Cape.

Mbombo launched her department’s “strategic priorities for the Western Cape for 2014-2019” at a community festival in Drakenstein yesterday.

Western Cape health minister Nomafrench Mbombo discusses staff concerns at the Khayelitsha Hospital last week. Mbombo made an unannounced visit to this and other public health facilities to check up on service delivery. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Western Cape health minister Nomafrench Mbombo discusses staff concerns at the Khayelitsha Hospital last week. Mbombo made an unannounced visit to this and other public health facilities to check up on service delivery. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Her department said the plan was “centred on creating healthy, inclusive, safe and socially connected, communities”.

A statement from the provincial health department said the country is a “society that still carries the burdens of inequity”.

“Communities remain impoverished without the necessary economic opportunities to ensure adequate upliftment and empowerment of the people, often leading them to fall prey to social ills in society such as alcohol and drug abuse, gangsterism and generally adopting unhealthy lifestyles.”

Mbombo said she wanted to “reach out to communities in order to close the gap of poverty, social ills, burden of disease and build healthy communities”.

Mbombo made an unannounced visit to Khayelitsha Hospital last week, where she listened to staff concerns and challenges at the facility.

“Most of the complaints come to us at the head office. In most instances you don’t know whether to defend (the hospital). We are being accused and we don’t know what’s happening,” she told staff.

“I came for an unannounced visit so that I could see for myself what is happening. We know there is a staff shortage and we are working on that.

“But you need to understand there is no justification for poor quality and a negative attitude. We want to give you support and we are urging you not to take it out on the patient.”

She added: “Explain to patients that sometimes they would wait for six hours (to see a doctor). There are people who have been waiting for four days for a bed and we know there are no beds.”

In the hospital’s overcrowded emergency unit, patients were sitting on chairs, as there were not enough beds where they could be treated.

The unit’s head doctor Sa’ad Lahri said they were “helping 122 people and at most we can accommodate about 50”.

“It is overwhelming and everybody is struggling to do what they can,” said Lahri.

Sa’ad Lahri, head of the emergency unit at the Khayelitsha Hospital, said they are overcrowded. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Sa’ad Lahri, head of the emergency unit at the Khayelitsha Hospital, said they are overcrowded. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Mbombo attributed hospital overcrowding to the Western Cape’s year-on-year population size increase.

“There are about 6,1 million people in the province. People are moving from elsewhere to live here and they need to access public facilities. The issue of over-population will impact on our health facilities,” said Mbombo.

Another doctor at the hospital, Nuraan Lotter, said they also have a shortage of equipment and that impacted on their work.

Doctor Nuraan Lotter at the Khayelitsha Hospital says they have a shortage of equipment and that impacts on their work at the hospital. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Doctor Nuraan Lotter at the Khayelitsha Hospital says they have a shortage of equipment and that impacts on their work at the hospital. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

“We have many challenges. We don’t have supplies and space. We have less than most peple expect we should have,” said Lotter.

“We don’t have enough doctors o deal with the large amount of patients. We see a lot of trauma and its difficult.

“We are expected just to move on from one patient to the next and we do try our best. We sometimes have to push patients off a bed so that we can see the next one.”

She added: “We need more staff and supplies. We need more blood tubes and drips and masks. We often make do with what we can but that’s not enough.”

Hospital nurses meanwhile said they were not safe at work or when they went home.

Nomsa Solomon, a nurse in the overnight ward who lives in Khayelitsha, said “patients are rude to us”.

Nomsa Solomon, a nurse in the overnight ward who lives in Khayelitsha, said “patients are rude to us”. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Nomsa Solomon, a nurse in the overnight ward who lives in Khayelitsha, said “patients are rude to us”. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

“Patients verbally abuse us and want to hit us. We are not safe at all in this place,” said Solomon.

“Some patients even tell us they will wait for us outside the gates. They say they will catch us. Some of us live in this community.”

Simphiwe Sabela said patients “shout at us that they need help”.

“Sometimes patients and people who come here are drunk and very rude. They shout at us and fight with us,” said Sabela.

Nurse Simphiwe Sabela at the Khayelitsha Hospital says staff face abuse from patients and do not feel safe. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Nurse Simphiwe Sabela at the Khayelitsha Hospital says staff face abuse from patients and do not feel safe. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

“You never know what’s going to happen to you. Crime is a problem and people ate stabbing and shooting each other. We are full especially at month end.”

Sabela added: “This hospital is too small and the community is too big. We are doing our best. Our doctors are trying to help the community.”

Mbombo said her department had enhanced security at public health facilities, including Khayelitsha Hospital, but “cannot do it alone”.

“Criminals are part of the community. We need help from the community to prevent crime. We can have security, but gun fights are beyond the hospital’s control,” she said.

“We have seen recent attacks on emergency medical services, robberies and threats with guns on staff.

“Ambulances were attacked and sometimes they have to wait for police to escort them, but sometimes the police is not available. So then they can’t go into an area.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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