KZN hospital 'not in crisis'

2009-06-19 18:05

Durban - KwaZulu-Natal’s MEC for health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo on Friday stressed there was no crisis at Edendale hospital, even though it was seeing an increasing number of patients seeking antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.

Addressing a media briefing in Durban, Dhlomo said the 55-year-old Pietermaritzburg hospital, with the largest ARV treatment site in South Africa, had around 10 985 patients on the ARV programme.

He said the department had 225 863 patients in the ARV programme in KwaZulu-Natal, and that Pietermaritzburg accounted for 13% of patients in the province.

Edendale hospital accounted for 5% of all patients receiving ARVs in the province.

Dhlomo said more than 800 000 patients had been screened for eligibility and counselled on proper management, care and support programmes.

“All our facilities have adequate stock of medications, nutritional support packs and we have not had a stock out – medications running out of stock.

“Down referral of clinically stable patients adhering to treatment is working very well.”

Space limitations

He said the problems at Edendale hospital had more to do with space limitations, the inability to recruit pharmacists and retain doctors, and not enough data capturers to capture information into the computer system.

It also had ageing infrastructure and human resource shortages.

“With the norm stating that one multi-disciplinary team must serve 500 patients, it has proven difficult to recruit sufficient dieticians, doctors and pharmacists.

"This problem is worldwide and not peculiar to KwaZulu-Natal or South Africa.

“In the last few months we have been trying to recruit pharmacists for sessional work and/or full time employment with no success,” Dhlomo said.

Recently appointed doctors were now leaving the hospital, and pharmacists were seeking employment in the private sector.

“I have asked a team from head office, the district office and the hospital to immediately address these problems,” said the MEC, while stressing that patients had never been turned away.

The department had resolved to extend the pharmacy to provide more space, employ more data capturers to reduce waiting time, give patients two months' scripts so they did not have to come in for their medication every month, fill hospital management posts and recruit more pharmacists.

He said patients who were stable, and had undetectable viral loads and a good track record would be managed at community health centres.

Ease backlogs

The MEC hoped that this effort would ease the backlogs and help to reduce waiting lists.

He also maintained there was no shortage of ARV medicines in hospitals.

“We have systems in place that monitor stock levels at institutions in order to ensure that there are no stock-outs and/or medicines expiring in shelves.

“Where there are challenges other than those we are addressing, we urge our people to bring these to the attention of managers in each institution so that they are addressed timeously.“