Edendale impresses Madonsela

2013-08-14 00:00

PUBLIC Protector Thuli Madonsela walked across the crowded outpatients department at Edendale Hospital and comforted Vuyiska Mhlomi as she described how her had father died while waiting for an ambulance.

Mhlomi wept as she spoke about the insensitivity of the emergency services staff, who kept telling her that the ambulance was coming, but it never arrived.

One even told her that if she was not prepared to wait, Mhlomi should hire a car.

Memories of her father’s death came flooding back recently when she saw the agony of a family who watched their baby die while they also waited in vain for an ambulance.

Madonsela paid a surprise visit to Edendale Hospital yesterday as part of her public dialogue campaign on issues of health and poverty.

KZN is the sixth province she has visited.

The public protector later said that she was pleasantly surprised at the cleanliness of the hospital and was impressed that the management at Edendale appeared well-informed.

She noted that while the queues in outpatients were moving fast, there were blockages in other sections like the dispensary.

Madonsela said the complaints from the patients and staff were not very different from those she had heard in the other provinces.

The hospital struggled with staff shortages; broken or poorly-maintained equipment and linen shortages. However, unlike in other provinces, at Edendale Hospital there were fewer complaints about medicine shortages and staff attitudes.

The hospital’s CEO Zanele Ndwandwe said space is their biggest challenge.

She said the hospital was still the same size as when it was built 59 years ago, yet they were now serving all of uMgungundlovu as well as the Sisonke district. The hospital sees about 2 000 patients a day.

The public protector and her team later moved to the city hall, where members of the public were invited to voice their concerns about the public health system.

Summing up her day, Madonsela said the country’s emergency services definitely needed attention.

She said this was a common complaint in all the provinces and yesterday there were complaints not just from members of the public but from hospital staff as well.

Senior managers in the maternity unit felt the number of deaths during birth could be reduced if the mothers could get to the hospital on time.

They too were often told of how long the patient had to wait for an ambulance. She said the problem was twofold — there were not enough ambulances and — based on what people said both at Edendale Hospital and the city hall — there were behavioural problems.

“The staff did not know how to talk to people, and there were complaints about not being taken seriously. Saying you are near when you are not or telling the family to find a car was not acceptable,” Madonsela said.

She added that emergency units needed to be upfront and tell people how long an ambulance would take to get to them.

The public protector’s office will be compiling a report on the health and poverty dialogues that will be sent to government.

She said the lessons they have learnt from the visits so far was the need for more dialogue between the health managers and communities.

The report will also help to focus government on the needs in the community. “There are a lot of good intentions, plans, visions and oganisational efforts. However, not all that is being done is translating into improving the quality of our healthcare,” Madonsela said.

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