Public hospitals in state of crisis in the North West province

The recent oversight visit to two of three public hospitals in the North West by the Provincial Legislature’s Portfolio Committee of Health and Social Development has prompted the chairperson of the committee, Nono Baloyi to call for the immediate closure of one of the institutions due to the crisis the committee discovered at the hospitals.

Two weeks ago, health MEC, Dr Magome Masike and the MEC for Finance, Environment and Economic Development, MEC Wendy Nelson including their senior officials were summoned by the Portfolio Committee to account for the current status of public hospitals after conducting unannounced oversight visits to hospitals where they met seriously disturbing conditions.

The hospitals visited included the Mafikeng Provincial or Bophelong Hospital, the Lehurutshe District Clinic and the Mathibestadt Community Health Centre to check the status quo and the working conditions of the hospitals and check deliverables in the supply of medication to service points.

What the committee members found at both Lehurutshe Mafikeng were too ghastly to contemplate. They discovered the worst possible conditions ever seen at a health institution where people are supposed to receive medical assistance to recover from their ailments.

In fact, said the committee members, to be admitted at these hospitals one in fact signs his/her own death warrant. You enter here at your own risk and have little if any hope or chance of coming out alive.

That is how bad the status at Lehurutshe hospital serving the entire Ramotshere Moiloa community was. Seeing the conditions at the hospital was sickening in itself for a patient to recover from his/her ailment.

The committee was disturbed to find amongst other things, that Lehurutshe Hospital had been operating without any hot water for years to sterilise or bath, placing a serious risk to the lives of patients. Boilers that are meant to cater for the in patients were all found to be non-functional. All patient files located in the filing room were congested due to lack of proper filing system in the hospital which leads to long patient waiting times as it becomes a tedious exercise to draw files while at the same time contributes to duplication of files.

“The hospital experiences overcrowding which is a serious impediment and high risk for cross infections especially on post theatre cases that requires separation causing high chances of infection particularly on septic cases.

“Furthermore, the hospital experiences gross shortage of beds while patients clothing is at the most warn and torn. Another area of concern was the lack of privacy at both surgical and medical male and female wards respectively as there are no dividing screens as well as curtains. Due to gross staff shortages, the vicinity is dirty because there are only two cleaners allocated who clean the whole hospital”, Maloyi said.

The theatre air conditioner plant has not been serviced for more than 2 years.

Expressing shock and disgust, Maloyi said, “The hospital which was meant to cater for the whole of Ramotshere-Moiloa district is in a state of collapse and I would recommend it to be closed. Nobody deserves to be in such a depressing and indecent environment,” said Maloyi.

The situation was not much different at Bophelong which had in the past been under attack from communities for alleged lack of professional conduct by staff in general.

The committee found that the Provincial Hospital only operated with one (1) boiler that has not been serviced for over a period of two years and could collapse anytime. Another finding was that the capacity of the mortuary can cater for only 48 bodies at a time which leads to overcrowding and subsequent outsourcing. The mortuary also needs urgent disinfection due to a staunch and offending smell in that area. There is a general lack of equipment and the current nurses are mostly students who operate without supervision therefore running a risk of medico legal cases that could lead to litigations.

Due to severe shortage of beds, patients end up sleeping on the floors at paediatric wards and there is Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit and patients often have to wait long-queues to be assisted. These abnormalities happen in the presence of professional doctors and nurses.

This is indeed a very worrying situation and the sooner Dr Masike and his team act on the it, the better for all and sundry. This is really a bad state of affairs and it calls for serious attention from every responsible official.

“When the committee questioned the senior officials at both hospitals they said complained that they had tried on numerous occasions to get the department to assist, but had been told there was no budget to address their needs.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Mahikeng Provincial Hospital, Adriaan Lawrence told the committee that the hospital had written on many occasions to the provincial department for assistance, “but the supply chain management takes forever to process craft specifications of our needs”.

What Now?

Comment by Bobby Saul of 13 Martin Street, Galleria Arcade, Mafikeng.