‘Things fall apart’ at Charlotte Maxeke

2013-05-12 14:00

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With tensions running high in the corridors of Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, it’s hard to get employees talking. But as Zinhle Mapumulo discovers, there are some employees who see everything – the women who keep the giant hospital clean.

Lindi Hlatshwayo* and Nonkululeko Nzama* spend nine hours at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital every day.

They arrive at 6am, put on their uniforms, grab their buckets and mops, and hit the corridors.

All day, every day, they watch the hospital at work – or, in their words, not working.

Hlatshwayo says Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital is no longer what it used to be.

“Things are falling apart. Doctors are resigning in numbers, equipment and lifts are malfunctioning, and now it seems the kitchen is also experiencing problems.”

On Tuesday, Hlatshwayo says, “the hospital ran out of meat and other food supplies because suppliers were not paid”.

“Patients had bread and soup for dinner. For all the years that I have worked in this hospital I have never witnessed such a thing.”

Provincial health department spokesperson Simon Zwane refutes the claims, saying he checked with the hospital and was assured it had not run out of food.

“(Food) is cooked somewhere else and brought to the hospital, so there was no way the kitchen could run out of food supplies,” he said.

But Hlatshwayo and Nzama insist they are telling the truth.

The two women, who clean different sections of the hospital, say there’s been a lot of unhappiness among doctors in the past few months.

“The doctor in charge of all the doctors apparently does not treat them well. She shouts at them and when they resign, she tells them the hospital will survive without them,” Nzama says.

She’s referring to Dr Mamorena Mofokeng, the hospital’s clinical director.

Hlatshwayo says she’s heard similar stories, but has never met Mofokeng.

“I heard that she stopped some doctors from working overtime and this has not gone down well.

“In some departments the mood is sombre, with doctors coming at 7am and packing their bags and leaving on the dot of 4pm – despite knowing there are patients still waiting to be seen by them.

“But I don’t blame them. Bengingenza into efanayo nami uma umuntu engiphuca isinkwa emlonyeni (I would do the same if somebody was taking food out of my mouth),” Hlatshwayo added.

Then, mop at the ready, she sets off down another corridor to carry on scrubbing the floors of the giant public hospital.

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