Staff speak out at Edendale hospital

2017-05-29 13:30
Health still "discussing" ongoing critical shortages.

Health still "discussing" ongoing critical shortages.

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Edendale Hospital’s doctors “are struggling like hell to save lives”.

Hospital sources who spoke to The Witness on condition of anonymity said nurses and doctors are exhausted by a daily battle against critical staff shortages and broken equipment which is putting the well-being of patients at risk.

The hospital’s emergency department, built as a “state of the art” unit, was completed just over a year ago.

However, equipment and beds ordered two years ago had still not arrived and important equipment such as diagnostic scanners have been broken for a year.

The source said the department, which is headed up by specialist emergency doctors and trauma nurses, was established to handle emergency patients in particular. But it remains unfinished and is not fully operational.

Only eight out of 16 beds ordered two years ago arrived, and vital equipment is either broken, or has never arrived.

“Even if the other eight beds did arrive, there would not be enough staff to cover them,” the source said.

The emergency department caters for the “walking wounded” (minor injuries) and emergency trauma patients.

The department also has two operating theatres, one for minor procedures and the other for emergencies.

However, at present the emergency theatre remains closed.

The source said this is because specialised equipment for the theatre that was allegedly promised was never delivered.

One particular piece of equipment, the Lodex machine that scans critical patients from head to toe within three minutes, thereby helping doctors to locate the most critical injuries in a patient, failed to arrive.

“There is space for it. The unit was built with the intention that the Lodex scanner would be there but it never arrived and there is no explanation as to why,” said the source.

“The staffing issue is also devastating.

“We are having to do more work to cover the vacancies that have not been filled by the Health Department.

“The emergency department is really something to be proud of. It has the best monitors money can buy but there are no service plans for the equipment and maintenance of the machines is almost non-existent.”

Another source said doctors and nurses are “bending over backwards to fill the holes” created by multiple vacancies for nurse and doctor posts.

“The hospital has fantastic doctors but everyone has to double up so it appears as if there is nothing wrong but the staff are exhausted,” said the source.

The source said Edendale hospital’s R10 million CT scanner broke in December and was fixed at a cost of R1,6 million in April. After a week it broke again and was repaired at a cost of R80 000, but is broken once again.

While the Health Department maintains the scanner is fixed and currently working, staff dispute this.

The source said patients needing a CT scan, say after a major accident, have to be referred to other hospitals with a scanner, but only once they are stable enough. They then return to Edendale for their treatment.

The source said this process has cost lives, and although it didn’t happen often those deaths could have been prevented.

“Doctors are battling like hell to save lives,” said the source.

The source also complained that doctors, nurses and even the regional management battle to get information from the Health Department.

It was as if there is a “cloud” hanging over the department that staff cannot see through or get to.

“They hand down instructions but they are untouchable and cannot be contacted.

“ The minute a patient walks through the hospital door, doctors are supposed to protect them. However, there is only so much that can be done without the necessary equipment ... If all the specialists had to leave the public sector, as many are doing, the system would collapse spectacularly,” said the source.

KZN Health Department spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi told The Witness that infrastructure development and improvement is part of government’s plan to improve health care in the province, which is faced with a “high burden of disease”.

The department’s short- and long-term plans include buying equipment and allocating skilled human resources within the available budget.

“The Department of Health is committed to providing quality healthcare services to the people of KwaZulu-Natal within the resources at its disposal,” said Mkhwanazi.

“Where there are challenges, including staff shortages, the department is discussing these within government, and with its social partners such as labour unions with a view to finding solutions.”

Mkhwanazi said the commissioning plan for the emergency unit at Edendale Hospital was based on a phased approach that will progress during the 2017/18 financial year.

“The staff recruitment plan is aligned with the commissioning plan for the unit which will be implemented during the current financial year,” he said.

“The Lodex machine is prioritised for procurement during the current financial year.

“The CT scanner has been repaired and is functional. Basic clinical investigations are being conducted while the CT injector (which enhances clinical investigations) is being attended to,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  public health

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