100-year-old St Mary's hospital on the brink of collapse, doctors warn

2018-04-23 18:05
KZN Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo at St Mary’s Hospital. (Supplied)

KZN Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo at St Mary’s Hospital. (Supplied)

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Doctors at St Mary's Hospital in Durban warn patients' lives have been put at risk and that the hospital has been teetering on the brink of collapse since the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health took it over five months ago.

A group of doctors who spoke to News24 described the hospital as being in a crisis. They spoke on condition of anonymity, amid fears of victimisation by hospital management.

"One doctor is seeing more than 140 patients in a 30-hour stretch and is doing the work of three doctors. We are forced to work in unventilated consulting rooms, exposing us and the patients to risks of communicable diseases.

READ: Patient films alleged mistreatment of bedridden women in government hospital

"We are burnt out and mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. We are expected to keep working despite running out of essential materials like sterile gloves, proper sutures, swabs and other items needed on a day-to-day basis. We don't have a lab on site, yet are expected to see critically-ill patients and those referred from other hospitals.

"Patients in our 'out-patient department' wait all day without being seen and often leave only to return the next day," said the group of doctors.

They claim to have raised their concerns in a written letter - seen by News24 - to management and the provincial health department, but said they did not receive any response.

The department took over the 100-year-old hospital, which was previously run by a missionary organisation, in October last year, after it emerged that it had become insolvent and faced imminent closure.

READ MORE: KZN health dept takes over mission hospital

The department announced at the time that it bought the hospital at a cost of R142m and injected a further R11.4m worth of assets to upgrade the facility.

At the time of takeover, the department said the hospital would "remain the pride of the people of KwaZulu-Natal, giving them amongst others, a package of services to include family medicine, primary health care; rehabilitation; surgery; obstetrics; paediatrics; psychiatry; eye care and geriatrics".

It also touted plans to boost the hospital's staff intake and increase stock on hand to ensure the hospital operated efficiently.

However, since then, staff decried the lack of resources and seven doctors have left in the past four months. More are planning to leave in the coming months.

"We cannot work under these conditions. We are loyal and patriotic and want to see change, but our concerns are falling on deaf ears. How can we be expected to deliver 400 babies per month, with many elective Caesarians constantly being postponed because we don't have critically-needed items for the procedure.

"Our paediatric outpatient ward is run by one doctor only, who sees an average of 45 babies every day. Conditions are not humane," doctors told News24.

The KZN Department of Health did not respond to queries about the issue.

Read more on:    durban  |  health

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