Patients turned away from Cape Town military hospital after medical equipment breaks down

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SANDF is probing alleged faults at a military hospital.
SANDF is probing alleged faults at a military hospital.
  • Patients at Wynberg 2 Military Hospital in Cape Town say they are being turned away as the hospital struggles with broken medical equipment.
  • Nurses at the hospital claim they have been without much-needed equipment, including X-ray machines, for weeks.
  • The SA National Defence Force is investigating the allegations. 

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is investigating allegations that Wynberg 2 Military Hospital in Cape Town is turning patients away due to broken medical equipment.

On Monday, Glenda Pontes was turned away when she went to the hospital an for X-rays because she was struggling to breathe.

She says she was told that the X-ray machines at the hospital were out of order.

"I went to the casualty section as I had accidentally inhaled an ammonia-based substance when fumigating. My lungs were affected and I was struggling to breathe, so the doctor sent me for a lung X-ray, only to find out that they had no machines that were operational," she said.

She said:

I could not travel to Simon's Town for an X-ray, and so I insisted on being seen. After a few minutes, which felt like hours, I was offered a mobile X-ray, which they could only [do on people] lying in a supine position. Lying on your back for lung X-rays is not ideal.

Pontes claimed a staff member told her three people were transferred on Sunday because vital machinery was not operational.

She said no notices were put up to warn people about the lack of working medical equipment.

"The point is that for the main military hospital not to have any adequate X-ray machines working, is extremely disturbing. It makes us question whether we will receive professional attention in an emergency," she added.

Pontes said she and her husband contributed to the military medical fund for close to 40 years, so the situation was a concern for them.

A nurse, who spoke to News24 on condition of anonymity, said the hospital has been without medical equipment for a few weeks.

"There were rumours going around that they might close the hospital permanently, which is very sad because we all rely heavily on these jobs. But as of yet, management has had no conversations with the staff," she said.

"We are all walking on eggshells right now. An email was sent out to say the hospital landlines were not working because of some connectivity issues between Telkom and Silvermine. We cannot receive calls or [make outgoing calls]," the nurse added.

READ | Covid-19: So, what do we do with all of our masks now that they are no longer required?

Another nurse claimed a military hospital was experiencing the same issues and was sending patients to them. 

"We can't see to patients if we don't have the necessary equipment. It's not that we want to send the patients away, but what else can we do if we don't have the machines?" the nurse added.

SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said:

The matter has been brought to the attention of the surgeon general and is being attended to through the internal procurement system to enable the health facilities to function optimally with operational medical equipment.

"This will ensure that outsourcing of services at a huge cost to outside service providers is curtailed and that such resources are rather used to ensure that needed equipment is available at the military health facilities," Dlamini added.

Dlamini denied the claim that the hospital would shut down.

"There is no truth [to the claim that] the military health facilities will close as they continue to provide the service to the members," Dlamini added.

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