Hundreds of surgeries cancelled at Gauteng hospitals due to lack of clean linen

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  • Nine government hospitals were affected by linen shortages in Gauteng this year.
  • Of those, six had to cancel a number of surgeries.
  • Mamelodi Hospital was the worst hit, with almost 20 operations postponed per day over a two-week period. 

Nine government hospitals in Gauteng have been hit by clean linen shortages in operating theatres this year, which resulted in hundreds of surgeries being cancelled. 

This was revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in the legislature and in a written reply to questions from the DA’s Jack Bloom.

Mokgethi revealed that the Far East Rand, Leratong, Mamelodi, Sebokeng, Jubilee, Chris Hani Baragwanath, Charlotte Maxeke, George Mukhari and Helen Joseph hospitals had all been affected by linen shortages this year.

Mamelodi Hospital was the worst affected, with operations from all surgical disciplines being cancelled for two weeks due to a lack of clean linen to use during surgery.

"Contingency linen, as well as disposable linen, was used to improvise and perform emergency surgeries," Mokgethi said. 

Mokgethi added:

We are looking at five theatres performing about five cases on average per day, so almost 20 cases postponed per day when there was a linen crisis.

READ | Several hospitals in Gauteng and KZN have infrastructure problems and staff shortages, MPs find

At Sebokeng Hospital, about 80 cataract surgeries were cancelled due to linen shortages, while at Helen Joseph Hospital, 15 orthopaedics surgeries were cancelled. Jubilee Hospital cancelled 18 operations; nine were cancelled at George Mukhari Hospital and three at Leratong Hospital. 

At Chris Hani Baragwanath and Charlotte Maxeke Hospitals, there were minimal delays caused by the shortage and no surgeries were cancelled because they had backup plans.

According to Mokgethi, machine breakdowns and inefficiency at two government laundromats caused the shortages. She also said various methods had been applied at each hospital to deal with the issues. This included using disaster stock which was replenished after it was used, using disposal linen, getting linen from other hospitals, and using private laundromats to get the linen clean.

Bloom said it was traumatic for surgeons and staff to have to cancel operations for patients who may have waited for years, as the waiting lists were very long, especially for hip and knee cases.

"The laundries run by the Gauteng health department are notorious for inefficiencies and high cost. It is tragic that surgery is disrupted because of linen shortages which are easily avoidable with good management," he added. 

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