Madonsela to probe children’s ICU beds shortage

2012-09-11 10:05

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela will investigate the “severe” shortage of paediatric intensive care units in government hospitals.

The Institute for Accountability, a non-profit group, announced today that Madonsela’s office has confirmed that it would probe the cause of the shortage that has seen doctors having to “play God” by deciding which child is kept in an ICU to receive the necessary care.

The institute’s director, Advocate Paul Hoffman, said: “Hospitals should be capacitated to cope with the anticipated demand for paediatric ICU facilities, which are regarded as basic healthcare facilities.”

In reality, Hoffman said, “this is not the case and has resulted in a situation which is in violation of the rights laid out in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights”.

The issue of shortage of paediatric ICU beds in the government hospitals surfaced in July when the media reported that children needing high care were being admitted to general medical wards because no beds were available at the ICU.

The Institute for Accountability subsequently lodged a complaint with the Public Protector.

According to the department of health 20% of all ICU beds in South Africa are reserved for children while 80% are utilised by adults.

This despite the fact that South Africa is one of the 22 countries in the world that has the highest infant and child mortality rate.

The latest report on peri-natal care in South Africa, titled Saving Babies 2008-2009, shows that 75 000 children under the age of five die in South Africa every year – about 23 000 in their first four weeks of life – while an additional 23 000 babies are stillborn.

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