SA at work: Taming TB in a new space

2014-02-09 17:14

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There’s an almost tangible sense of pride and professionalism coming from the team running the accident and emergency ward in the 400-bed district hospital in the middle of Durban’s King Dinuzulu Hospital Complex, which was officially opened during a ceremony last month.

Doctor Roshan Maharaj, matron Busisiwe Dladla and operations manager Thabo Mathenjwa were all on duty when the hospital, which is part of the city’s old King George V TB hospital, opened its doors to patients for the first time on January 1 2012.

The trio heads up a team of 48 staff, split into two shifts, which runs the 16-bed casualty ward that handles between 450 and 500 patients a month. The team assesses and stabilises the patients before they are either discharged or admitted to one of the paperless district hospital’s 14

other wards.

The district hospital serves as a sort of catchment for about 750?000 residents, although patients from as far as Pietermaritzburg and Estcourt were receiving treatment there this week.

“We opened the place, it’s been rewarding for us. There are challenges in terms of patient

load and supplies but the facilities are excellent,” says Mathenjwa, a 15-year nursing veteran who previously worked in the trauma unit at the city’s King Edward VIII Hospital.

Maharaj agrees, saying: “There are challenges, but the facilities here are far superior to those at any similar hospital in Durban or its surrounds.

“It’s new, it’s clean and there is quality, new equipment. We work very hard as a team to ensure we deliver quality care to our patients.”

The district hospital was built from scratch as part of a 15-year revitalisation programme for King George V Hospital, which first opened in 1939 as a whites-only TB facility.

Black patients were treated in a separate hospital in Point. The white hospital expanded after World War 2 because of a shortage of TB beds for returning war veterans.

In 1956, the two merged to create the King George V Hospital, and black and white patients were treated in separate wards.

Opened by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini last month, the King Dinuzulu Hospital Complex consists of the district hospital, a 320-bed multiple drug-resistant (MDR) and extremely drug-resistant (XDR) TB hospital, an 80-bed TB spinal and thoracic unit, a 130-bed psychiatric hospital and a dental clinic run in conjunction with the University of KwaZulu-Natal Medical School.

Stretching almost 2km and employing 1?600 staff members – from doctors to security guards – parts of the state-of-the-art complex were still under construction when City Press visited this week.

Some delays were caused by the liquidation of a contractor, with construction expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Workers were still busy with the new TB outpatient section and psychiatric wards, and landscaping crews were laying strips of lawn along the perimeter fence separating the sprawling complex from the neighbourhood of Asherville.

Since 2009, the project, which now falls under the presidential infrastructure coordinating commission, has created about 1?400 construction jobs as part of the expanded public works programme. Landscaping contractor Eric Ngubane from Bhambhayi in Inanda has been on site with his 30-member crew since last month.

Their job started last month, and next month they will move on to another project, which is likely to be another hospital.

Ngubane says: “The work is good. The money is not that bad. The cost of living is high and there are 13 people living at home, but we are working.” Staff members in the new TB hospital are upbeat about the new environment.

“The wards are new, clean, well ventilated and much safer and more hygienic to work in,” says Sister Radiyyah Khan, who works in the male TB unit.

The layout makes Khan and fellow staff in the 32-bed male TB ward feel more secure.

They need the reassurance – they deal with potentially fatal MDR and XDR TB, which is spread by particles that can hang in the air for two hours after a single cough from an infected person who is not on treatment.

Patients arrive at the hospital critically ill and are nursed for up to six months, depending on their condition and rate of recovery.

Khan says: “There’s effective air-conditioning and great ventilation, so we feel much safer. The old ward was dirty, equipment was old and toilets and bathrooms were awful because they were so old. This is a much more conducive environment for nurses and patients.”

Malusi Shibe (24) from Umlazi, who is in his fourth month of treatment for MDR TB, agrees, saying: “This is much cleaner. It’s brighter. The other ward was old and dirty. This is much better. There’s even DStv. The only thing you can tell them is that the food is too little.”

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