Eastern Cape hospital faces crisis due to initiate influx

Johannesburg - St Barnabas hospital in Libode in the Eastern Cape is facing a crisis due to an influx of initiates, the Eastern Cape health department said on Thursday.

Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said 36 initiates had been admitted to the hospital and it had run out of beds.

"Six ordinary medical cases could not be admitted last night [Wednesday] due to a shortage of beds as a result of initiate influx," he said.

"The provincial health department has had to intervene by moving some of the boys to Dr Malizo Mphehle Hospital to avert a crisis."

The boys were admitted due to a combination of ailments, from botched circumcisions leading to septic wounds, to dehydration and pneumonia.

Kupelo said the wounded boys had circumcisions performed on them by people who did not know how to perform them.

"Codefsa [Community Development Foundation for SA], an NGO assisting with circumcision rescue operations in the area, has agreed to erect a rescue centre behind the hospital."

Reputable traditional nurses

Chief Bokleni, a senior chief in the area, had given his permission for the land behind the hospital, which is not part of the property, to be used.

"All costs will come from Codefsa, [the] health [department] will need to support with medical kits and monitoring personnel," Kupelo said.

"Chief Bokleni will assign reputable traditional nurses for the duration of their stay, health nurses and doctors will monitor. Security guards will be assigned to secure the initiation village or rescue centre."

Other initiate admissions in the province had seen 14 boys admitted to Mthatha central hospital, seven to Dr Malizo Mpehle hospital in Tsolo, 15 to Canzibe hospital in Ngqeleni, and four boys to Holy Cross hospital in Flagstaff.

"The Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Fikile Xhasa, accompanied by senior health officials from Bhisho, is currently visiting St Barnabas Hospital and will also view the demarcated area for the rescue centre," Kupelo said.

Six people dead

On Sunday, Kupelo said a total of six people had died during the week in connection with the current initiation season.

Kupelo said five of the deaths happened in the OR Tambo district and one in the Chris Hani district. Libode is located in the OR Tambo district.

An 18-year-old boy from Ngqeleni was circumcised on June 13 and died on his way to hospital last Friday. The cause of death was still unknown, although he had presented with confusion and dyspnoea (laboured breathing). A forensic examination was underway.

A Tsolo man, 22, was circumcised on June 20 and died on Saturday. The cause of his death was still unknown.


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