Terminal patients crowd KZN hospitals

2008-03-28 00:00

A dramatic increase in terminally ill patients has sent KwaZulu-Natal’s already overcrowded and understaffed state hospitals into crisis mode.

This was highlighted in a Weekend Witness story about Inanda resident Pearl Magubane, who died after waiting three days for a bed at Addington Hospital.

Magubane sat on a bench for three days and waited for a bed. The Health Department has launched an investigation into her death.

Spokesman Leon Mbangwa confirmed that the shortage of beds at hospitals is a major challenge.

He said the department was saddened by Magubane’s death.

“As much as we acknowledge that the shortage of beds at our hospitals is a challenge we are faced with, circumstances around Magubane’s death will be subject of the department’s internal investigation,” he said.

Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union (Hospersa) regional manager Noel Desfontaines said the union is concerned over the shortage of beds, staff and the lack of proper equipment in state hospitals.

Addington Hospital in Durban and Pietermaritzburg’s Edendale and Northdale hospitals were identified as KwaZulu-Natal’s most overcrowded and understaffed hospitals.

There, patients have to wait for hours for a doctor to diagnose and treat them.

Many have to go home and return the next day in the hope of being treated.

Desfontaines said Hospersa raised these concerns with the Health Department, which admitted that there is a crisis and that patients are forced to wait long periods for treatment.

“We are extremely concerned that the sick are not getting immediate medical attention. The current staff and bed shortage is a pressing problem got the province’s health care system,” he said.

Desfontaines said the state has employed foreign doctors who were deployed to rural areas, but that this has not solved any problems.

“State hospitals are still battling with the increase of patients.

“Staff are trying their best, but the situation is getting out of hand. One life has been lost already,” he said.

Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) spokesman Cassim Lekhoathi said the staff shortage is due to the fact that vacancies are not advertised properly and that some hospitals do not attract nurses due to unsuitable accommodation.

“We have made several calls to the department to send nurses for training and to take in new staff.

“We have asked them to come to the table so collectively we can come to a problem to solve this crisis,” he said.

Lekhoathi said that Denosa regrets Magubane’s death and hopes that the crisis is solved before more people die unnecessarily.

“We are very concerned over this situation. The public should be getting the best health care and this is not happening at the moment,” he said.

In a letter to Weekend Witness, Mbangwa said: “The reality is that there is an increase of patients to our health facilities”.

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