Limpopo’s horror hospitals exposed

2015-01-04 15:00

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A shortage of potentially life-saving equipment, widespread theft of medicine, preventable patient deaths and mentally ill patients handcuffed to beds.

This is the grim picture that was painted of Limpopo’s hospitals and clinics in a report by the Public Service Commission (PSC).

The report, which City Press has seen, reveals:

» At least one patient dies every weekend at Lephalale’s Ellisras Hospital because there aren’t enough ventilators to help car accident victims breathe.

“It emerged that the hospital had one working medical ventilator to assist trauma patients with breathing problems, which was insufficient due

to the high number of trauma cases arising from motor vehicle accident injuries,” the report reads. “According to staff, the hospital was losing on average one patient every weekend due to insufficient ventilators.”

»?The same hospital doesn’t have any nebulisers to help asthmatics breathe. This has caused the death of at least one baby.

»?Staff at the Messina Hospital allegedly stole Cytotec – which is used in abortions or to induce labour – and sold it to Zimbabwean women. They were also accused of stealing antiretroviral drugs.

»?Also at Messina Hospital, there were no sedatives for mentally ill patients – so staff handcuffed them to prevent self-harm or physical attacks.

»Shelves at the Namakgale Clinic’s pharmacy were almost entirely empty.

»?Infants and their mothers were sleeping on the floor at Messina Hospital because there weren’t enough maternity wards or beds.

»?Polokwane’s medicine supply depot had large consignments of expired medicines.

The PSC says that if Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and the department of health want the National Health Insurance scheme to work, they will need to urgently fix the problems outlined in the report.

Limpopo’s health department is one of those that was under national government administration for three years.

Its public health service performed poorly in the health department’s National Health Care Facilities Baseline Audit, which was conducted between May 2011 and May 2012.

The PSC’s report is based on inspections that were conducted in April last year. Commission officials made both scheduled and surprise visits.

“The inspection sought to gather first-hand information regarding the availability of medicines and medical equipment at selected hospitals,” the commission said in its report.

Macks Lesufi, the spokesperson for Limpopo’s health department, said the “assumption” by the PSC that patients were dying each weekend because of ventilator issues at Ellisras was “wrong”.

He added: “To our knowledge, our ventilator at Ellisras Hospital in the theatre which helps our patients to breathe is fully functional.”

According to him, all the province’s patients who were on chronic medication were receiving them on schedule. The commission urged the department to probe the theft of medicines in Messina.

“It was mentioned there were allegations of incidents where some of the hospital medical personnel were stealing medicines and charging pregnant women from Zimbabwe an amount of R3?000 and sharing the money among themselves,” the report reads.

Investigators suspected the Cytotec was being used to perform illegal abortions.

“The use of any medication without proper supervision, especially the use of Cytotec in suspected termination of pregnancies, may have fatal consequences.”

According to Lesufi, officials weren’t aware of medication theft from Messina Hospital. “Any theft would have been picked up by the central dispatch centre.

“Despite the fact that there has not been any indication of any unusual activity at Messina Hospital, this allegation will be investigated,” he said.

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