Family battling to get info on ailing relatives as Gauteng hospitals have phone issues

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Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg.
Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg.
PHOTO: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images
  • Answers to questions in the Gauteng legislature indicate that some public hospitals have had switchboard issues since 2006. 
  • When telephone lines are not working, staff members have to use their cellphones. 
  • The DA in the province says it's frustrating for patients and their families.

Do you have a sick relative at a Gauteng hospital? It might be hard to get through to hospitals for updates on the person's condition because of the state of their telephone lines.

In written responses to questions the DA's Jack Bloom asked Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in the provincial legislature, the MEC revealed that hospitals have been having problems with their switchboards.

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Some issues are caused by faulty lines and some have been affected by load shedding.

During downtimes, hospitals have to rely on cellphones instead, she said.

According to Mokgethi, Weskoppies Hospital has been affected the most, with intermittent switchboard problems since 2006. Sterkfontein Hospital has been impacted by the issues since 2012.

Other hospitals have experienced the following:

  • Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital - intermittent problems since 2019;
  • Tambo Memorial Hospital - intermittent problems for the past five years;
  • Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital - intermittent problems for the past four years;
  • Pretoria West Hospital - intermittent problems for the past four years; and
  • South Rand Hospital - intermittent problems for the past three years.

Pholosong Hospital had no landlines for six weeks this year, and Bheki Mlangeni District Hospital had faulty lines for two weeks. Helen Joseph Hospital was cut off for six days and Yusuf Dadoo Hospital was uncontactable for five days.

Bloom said he received many calls from people who told him they couldn't get through to hospitals to find out how their relatives were doing, or to get information for their own medical needs.

"It is particularly hard when people are desperate for news about ailing family members, especially during periods when visits were restricted because of the Covid-19 epidemic."

Bloom said it didn't make sense for employees to use their cellphones when telephone lines were down.

"Hospital staff are also frustrated when they can't use landline phones and have to use their own cellphones, often at their own expense. The department now says they are implementing a new telephone system this year, but it remains to be seen if they finally manage to get this right."

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