Patients riot after cut in rations

2009-03-13 00:00

Riots broke out at Townhill Hospital last week when patients found their food rations cut.

Staff allege that the instruction to cut rations came from KZN Health Department’s head office as a cost-saving measure in light of the department’s R2,5-million budget overspend.

Staff in the Hillside ward of the psychiatric hospital, where the incidents happened, were in fear for their lives, saying the patients at the hospital are mentally ill and many are physically strong.

According to staff, the patients’ medication makes them hungry and when they received half of what they usually expect, many just went berserk. The first riot happened on Friday and mayhem broke out again on Sunday evening.

The management at the hospital made a plan and increased rations, but staff say this is on an ad-hoc basis.

Staff also allege that the management promised to remedy the situation by speaking to the supply chain division at head office where the decision to cut food rations was made. However, nothing seems to have happened as yet.

Night staff are now using their own money to buy bread to fill the patients up so they can calm them down and settle them for the night. The situation is being described as untenable and there are calls for urgent action by the department.

Staff believe that if there is another riot things may turn ugly and there may be casualties.

KZN Health spokesman Sebe Zwane said yesterday that the department is aware of the matter.

He said a management meeting was held this week to resolve this matter and everything is back to normal.

But members of the trade union Nehawu deny that all is back to normal. They will be monitoring the situation and if there are further cuts, they will take it up with their union as members’ lives are being endangered, they said.

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