SAHRC must probe hospitals - DA

2012-07-27 22:10
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Cape Town - The DA wants the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to mount an urgent investigation into equipment shortages at certain state hospitals.

These were "putting the lives of patients at serious risk", Democratic Alliance MP Patricia Kopane said in a statement on Friday.

The hospitals were in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Gauteng.

"I will today be writing to the HRC to request an urgent investigation into the impact of hospital equipment shortages on the rights of patients to have access to health care -- as enshrined in Section 27 of the Constitution."

Kopane said the shortages appeared to be "largely attributable to ignored requisition orders by provincial health departments, and the failure of these departments to pay service providers for the maintenance of critical equipment".

On Friday, she visited the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital with Gauteng MPL Jack Bloom.

"We assessed the conditions faced by patients and staff, and discovered that patients in Gauteng are being treated in hospitals that face similar equipment shortages to those in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo."

Among other things, they had found:

 - materials to make protective equipment used during radiation treatments had been exhausted, endangering the patients being treated;

 - two brachytherapy machines, used to treat cervical cancer, were not functioning because the radiation source had run out. A total of 159 patients were on the waiting list to be treated for cervical cancer; and

 - two Cobalt-60 units, used to treat Kaposi's sarcoma, were also offline because they lacked a radiation source.

"The disrepair means that patients who have already been diagnosed with cancer cannot be treated effectively and safely."

Shortages at other Gauteng hospitals included:

 - the Steve Biko Academic Hospital's oncology department faced similar problems to the oncology unit at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital; and

 - the Natalspruit Hospital’s only CAT scanner had been out of order since September last year.

"It is clear that the lack of basic resources in our hospitals has reached critical levels," Kopane said.

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