Health’s ‘terrible planning’

2017-05-18 14:03
The entrance to Grey’s hospital. This week, ambulances with trauma patients aboard had to be redirected to Edendale hospital.

The entrance to Grey’s hospital. This week, ambulances with trauma patients aboard had to be redirected to Edendale hospital. (File)

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The critical shortage of doctors in KZN has taken its toll on Grey’s Hospital, with all daytime emergency ambulance service patients being rerouted to Edendale Hospital.

Doctors at both hospitals confirmed that they had received an e-mail instructing them that the doctor in the casualty ward at Grey’s had taken leave and there was no one to replace him.

The e-mail stated that emergency patients transported by ambulance services should be sent to Edendale’s trauma unit and not to Grey’s and there would be no doctor in Grey’s Hospital casualty department from Monday until Thursday from 8 am until 4 pm.

The chairperson of the South African Medical Association (Sama), Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, said the crisis at the hospital was disturbing, especially after doctors protested two weeks ago about these issues.

“The shortage of doctors, crumbling infrastructure and broken equipment,” was having an impact on doctors’ ability to do their jobs, he said.

“Most units in the Department of Health do not have enough doctors and I was told that Grey’s had tried to assign other doctors to the post but could not because of the shortage.”

Grootboom said this type of situation puts patients at risk and doctors under severe strain.

He called on the Pietermaritzburg community to support doctors in demanding that posts at hospitals are reopened. The Department of Health had not responded to queries at the time of going to print.

A source at Grey’s Hospital said they were not refusing to treat emergency patients, however, emergency services had been told to transport all trauma patients to Edendale as the ward was being run by a surgical intern while their casualty doctor was on leave.

The source said although there were trauma surgeons available at Grey’s, they had their own patients to look after and could not necessarily help in the casualty ward.

“I am very upset about this. It is not ideal for the patients. Everyone is having to work harder and do more than is expected of them,” said the source.

“This means patients are having to wait longer times to see doctors and be treated.

“This was terrible planning and is not good for any of the doctors or patients,” said the source.

A doctor at Edendale, who could not be named, said the hospital had seen an increase in patients over the past few days, however, it could not be confirmed that this was a direct result of patients being diverted.

“The resuscitation area is full, and we are a lot busier than usual,” said the source.

“The freezing of critical posts has left Grey’s Hospital in this situation and they are relying on one doctor to cover casualty during the day, and general practitioners to cover night shifts.

“It is outrageous, but we are trying to patch up what we can and keep going.”

The doctor said the situation at Grey’s was a potential risk to trauma patients, saying the diversion of patients was a great concern and patient care could potentially be compromised.

“If there is an emergency, such as a major accident, Grey’s and Edendale usually split the patients between the two, but now they are all being sent to Edendale.”

The doctor said this was not an isolated incident, but an accumulation of months of many disasters.

The doctor said the casualty ward doctor at Grey’s took leave this week after working for months as the only doctor operating in the ward during the day.

DA MPL Dr Imran Keeka said the Department of Health had frozen all critical posts in 2015, leaving almost 10 000 critical posts within its facilities vacant.

He said the freezing of posts was supposed to have been lifted at the end of 2015, but posts were still vacant. He called the situation at Grey’s unacceptable and said it compromised critical care at both it and Edendale.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  kzn health department

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