Hospitals beg for more doctors

2017-07-26 13:48
Plea to Health to unfreeze posts as Grey's surgery operates "on a contingency plan'.

Plea to Health to unfreeze posts as Grey's surgery operates "on a contingency plan'. (File)

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The surgical department at Grey’s Hospital is having to divert all emergency surgeries and referrals from other hospitals to Edendale Hospital due to the critical shortage of doctors in the province.

With only two specialists on call, and two intern doctors on the ground, a source, who cannot be named, said that all ambulance services and surrounding hospitals had been told by Grey’s to send patients to Edendale.

However, KZN Health spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi said that “alarmist reports alleging that the surgical department at Grey’s Hospital will be closed after hours are not true”.

But sources have revealed that this is not the first time Grey’s has been affected by the shortage of doctors in the province.

In May this year, doctors from both Edendale and Grey’s hospitals received an e-mail instructing them that the doctor in the casualty ward at Grey’s had taken leave and there was no one to replace him.

The e-mail had stated that emergency patients transported by ambulance services should be sent to Edendale’s trauma unit and not to Grey’s and there would be no doctor in Grey’s Hospital casualty department for a week from 8 am until 4 pm.

Now, two months later, the hospital is again having to divert patients.

“People who have been shot, stabbed or critically injured in a car accident will be sent to Edendale Hospital instead of Grey’s,” said the source.

“There are two specialists on call, one is a trauma surgeon and the other deals with non-trauma related issues.”

The source said that although there were two specialists at Grey’s, only one would be on call after hours.

“Usually a specialist will be on call with two other doctors and two interns, however, now there are only two interns to work with the surgeon on call,” said the source. “One intern will help the specialist during the surgery while the other intern will be on the ground, helping walk-in patients.

“Grey’s will only see patients who arrive at the hospital’s doorstep and although the casualty ward is open, if a person needs surgery, they will have to be taken to another hospital, which is potentially very dangerous for patients. Things have never been so bad before.”

The source said staff had been pleading with the KZN Health Department for months to fill vacant doctors’ posts, however, their cries seemed to fall upon deaf ears.

The source said that with Grey’s Hospital diverting patients, Edendale Hospital had admitted twice as many patients on so far this week as usual.

“Edendale has a full team but they are very busy and it is not an ideal situation. Doctors and interns are really taking strain and we are begging the department to unfreeze posts.”

Another source who could not be named confirmed that Grey’s surgical department was operating on skeleton staff and questioned how this was allowed in Pietermaritzburg’s regional trauma hospital.

“Grey’s surgical department is closed after hours for the week so everything must come to Edendale,” said the source.

“This is unacceptable. It is our regional trauma hospital, how can it close?”

Mkhwanazi said, “The shortage of doctors, particularly specialists, is not peculiar to the province of KZN, but is generally a national and international challenge.

“It is also not true that the hospital will not be taking any major cases this week, or that the hospital only has one surgeon and two interns.

“The surgery department is still open 24 hours, seven days a week.

“After hours, there will be two specialists plus two interns covering the surgery department this week.

“There have always been two interns, two medical officers/registrars and two specialists on call. However, just for this week, the two medical officers will not be on call.

“A contingency plan has been put in place to mitigate the impact of this.”

He said the hospital would still accept emergency referrals, whether major or minor, after discussion with the specialists on call.

“There was never any instruction issued to anyone that the hospital will not accept major cases,” said Mkhwanazi.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  shortage of doctors

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