Hospital bed crisis in PMB

2009-11-06 00:00

PRIVATE hospitals in Pietermaritzburg face a severe bed shortage crisis, with patients being turned away daily. In cases of emergency they are being taken to Durban and even airlifted to Johannesburg.

The Democratic Alliance took up the issue in the KZN Legislature yesterday. DA caucus leader John Steenhuisen asked why the KZN Health Department is not dealing with requests by these hospitals for more beds.

Steenhuisen said he has documents revealing that there is a shortage of between 50 and 100 beds a day, which includes those for roll-over patients.

Steenhuisen added that St Anne’s and Medi-Clinic have not had their applications for more beds dealt with for some two years. He said the DA has been advised that the committee tasked with dealing with allocations has recently been disbanded.

He added that the situation is having a huge impact. “Doctors are being forced to operate outside of normal hours, at increased costs to patients, and at a higher risk. Medical procedures are also being carried out in consulting rooms, which doctors know to be improper.”

He said that while there are often no beds for psychiatric or terminal patients, some patients are also being placed in the only beds available, in ICU, at unnecessary cost.

“Meanwhile, specialists are believed to be leaving the city due to their increased inability to operate efficiently,” he added.

KZN Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said he was sorry the DA chose to raise the matter in a debate where he did not have all the facts and figures on hand. Dhlomo said he was getting applications from hospitals with 100 beds applying for another 100. “This is like creating a whole new hospital. These issues have broader ramifications and cannot be decided on a stroke of a pen,” he said.

A health researcher later clarified that equity between the private and public sectors is at the heart of the matter. If private hospitals are allowed large numbers of beds, the question arises: how is the public sector going to develop especially in light of the National Health Insurance?

The public sector could end up always beholden to the private sector for bed space.

This is not about inefficiency, this is about a new administration weighing up all the options, she said.

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