Hospital safety for overhaul

2012-11-05 00:00

THE Health Department is close to releasing details of a report recommending an overhaul of security in the country’s hospitals.

The work of a task team established to review the safety of public medical facilities had been completed and officials were dissecting the findings, said ministerial spokesperson Joe Maila.

His comments to The Witness yesterday followed a memorial lecture in Umhlanga on Saturday hosted by the South African Medical Association (Sama) and held in honour of a doctor killed by a patient in June last year.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi addressed the gathering and told the audience an announcement on hospital security was imminent.

Maila said this would be before the end of December. He was unable to disclose further details, saying the recommendations were being pored over.

But he said the department wanted bang for its buck, hence the review.

“It looks like we are spending lots of money on security and not getting value.”

Health professionals have keenly anticipated government’s input in the matter after the violent death of Dr Senzosenkosi Mkhize, fatally stabbed by a patient in Middelburg Hospital in Mpumalanga.

In the immediate aftermath of Mkhize’s death, health professionals called on the government to address unsafe working conditions.

Yesterday, new Sama chairperson Dr Mzukisi Grootboom said the association had been putting pressure on the government to come up with answers on security.

“We’ve been pushing for it [the report], waiting and waiting,” said Grootboom.

Part of the brief of the task team, said Grootboom, was to investigate the level of security in hospitals, the effectiveness of it, the quality of guarding and security contracts currently in place.

Concern for safety of staff has already prompted Gauteng officials to ban the public from evening visits to Chris Hani Baragwanath, Charlotte Maxeke and Helen Joseph hospitals, the Sunday Times reported.

On a separate issue, Motsoaledi was questioned at the function about the country’s critical shortage of doctors and nurses, and what the government proposed to do about it.

At the moment the system produces about 1 200 medical graduates a year and needs to be doing triple that number.

According to Grootboom, who attended the lecture, Motsoaledi said 1 000 students were on their way to Cuba.

The answer was “not satisfactory”, said Grootboom. But Maila said this week would see an announcement on measures to increase the enrolment at medical schools.

This would begin with the launch of a leadership academy tomorrow followed by an event on Thursday spelling out how the department aimed to boost its student intake.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s medical school said it was preparing for larger intakes, without specifying details.

Spokesperson Nomonde Mbadi said they had received 5 500 applications for this year’s first-year enrollment while only 210 places were available.

The school has applied to the Health Professions Council of SA to accredit 250 for next year.

“Annually, approximately 156 to 170 medical students qualify as medical doctors,” said Mbadi.

“Steps are being taken to prepare for the increase. In this regard the university has taken measures to increase the seating capacity in the main lecture venues.”

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