Patients sleep on floor in overfull wards

AT least three more hospitals, the same size as Edendale hospital, would need to be built in order to serve the high number of patients in the area.

This was revealed during a parliamentary portfolio committee on health oversight visit to Edendale hospital on Tuesday.

The committee yesterday visited Mpumuza clinic, Edendale regional hospital, Fort Napier psychiatric hospital and the Grey’s tertiary hospital as part of its work in conducting oversight over the executive and government departments.

This comes after the national Health Department published the National Health Insurance (NHI) plan, which is a financing system that will make sure that all citizens of South Africa (and legal long-term residents) are provided with essential healthcare, regardless of their employment status and ability to make a direct monetary contribution to the NHI fund.

The NHI was published for public comment and when that process is complete it will come to Parliament.

During the oversite visit at Edendale hospital on Tuesday, the chairperson of the committee Fish Mahlalela said the two major concerns at the hospital were space and shortage of staff.

The committee was broken up into two groups and escorted by hospital staff to different parts of the hospital where they inspected the facility and interviewed patients.

At a briefing meeting later, the issues raised included understaffing, insufficient space, not enough beds, maintenance of machinery and infrastructure.

Mahlalela said the situation at the mortuary was “extraordinarily bad” as there was shortage of staff, water leakages, the walls were peeling and there was no ventilation for the people working there. He also raised concerns about the “very small” clinic on the premises.

“That clinic is so small it’s like a shack, people are actually working from a shack. This is one of the major issues that need to be raised when we meet with KZN Health MEC Dhlomo as this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency,” he said.

Committee member Dr Patrick Maesela raised concerns about the issue of space, privacy and the shortage of beds.

“There are instances where at least four patients have to be attended to in one room at the same time because there just isn’t enough space.

“There are also wards where patients have to sleep on the corridor floors because there aren’t enough beds for patients. Even if the beds are added, there is still no space for them,” he said.

From his observation, Maesela said at least three more hospitals, the same size as Edendale hospital would need to be built to meet the patient demand.

Mahlalela said the major challenges at the Fort Napier psychiatric hospital were that it was an old facility, the machinery was also very old and gets broken constantly and there was a huge shortage of staff as personnel who leave are not being replaced.

“Currently there is a shortage of about 22 personnel and those who are there are expected to provide more services than they can in terms of abilities and staffing.

“The staff also feel they are not being compensated at the level they feel is sufficient to the work they do,” he said.

During the rest of the oversight visits, the committee will visit NHI pilot sites, which will assist them in assessing the situation and progress made in the NHI pilot district, and make the necessary recommendations and take informed decisions as the NHI plan becomes legislation.

On Friday, the committee will visit the oncology unit at Addington hospital in Durban and thereafter have a meeting with Health MEC Dhlomo. From there a report will be compiled and then submitted to Parliament.