Maternity ward in a 'deplorable' state - Public Protector's finding on hospital in Mpumalanga

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The Public Protector has lifted the lid on the state of an Mpumalanga hospital.
The Public Protector has lifted the lid on the state of an Mpumalanga hospital.
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  • The Public Protector's office released investigation reports on Friday. 
  • The reports focus on the state of public hospitals in the country.
  • The office visited the hospitals in 2020.  

The Themba Hospital in Kabokweni, Mpumalanga, which was built in 1974, lacks proper maintenance, the Office of the Public Protector said on Friday. 

The office said this was hampering and limiting the hospital from rendering proper and adequate services to the community.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and her deputy, Kholeka Gcaleka, released the outcome of investigations into the state of public healthcare facilities.

The office said, although the health department had developed a maintenance plan to deal with infrastructure challenges, the plan could not be implemented due to financial constraints.

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"The Allied Health Services that include Occupational Health and Psychology, among others, are provided in a ward that is not suitable.

"For instance, four doctors share a consulting room at the same time. Patients are examined in front of others, which violates their privacy. However, it is encouraging to note that the department has identified suitable areas to be allocated to the relevant allied services upon 22 completion," Mkhwebane said during a media briefing on Friday. 

Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Gallo Images Gallo Images/Lefty Shivambu

She added that capacity constraints exacerbated the issue of general maintenance or lack thereof in the hospital.

Mkhwebane said observations made during the hospital visit had revealed "systemic deficiencies such as staff shortages, lack of adequate space, deplorable maternity ward conditions, shortage of medical equipment, [an] insufficient supply of personal protective equipment, poor physical infrastructure, such as dilapidated buildings, lack of maintenance of laundry services and the non-functional cooling system at the X-Ray building".

She said the current maternity ward was in a "deplorable" state, and the patients' rights were violated.

There was not enough space because there were only two delivery beds, she said.

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Mkhwebane said there was no privacy or no decent waiting area, and there was a shortage of staff, despite the fact that the hospital delivered 15 to 18 babies per day.

"We, however, take cognisance of the impending project and interim measures as confirmed by both the provincial Departments of Health and Public Works, Roads and Transport in their responses to the section 7(9) notices, dated 12 March and 8 June 2021, respectively.

"They indicated that the planning and design for the proposed construction of the new maternity ward have been completed.

"The project was planned to start in the second quarter of 2021/22 and estimated to take 36 months to complete. In the meantime, the provincial Department of Health plans to construct a new 24-bed Infrastructure Built Technology structure to house lodger mothers, upgrade the existing Maternity Ward with provision for privacy between patients; provision for new bulk storage facilities; upgrades to the children's ward; 3 Specialty OPD and upgrade the section to another new IBT structure."

She added: 

We note and acknowledge the challenges and constraints faced by the department, such as the budgetary constraints that may hamper its implementation of the maintenance plan on infrastructure challenges and the implementation of the Human Resource Plan as well as the context within which health services are delivered at the hospital.

The office also visited Limpopo Hospital and investigated allegations of maladministration and systemic deficiencies affecting service delivery at the WF Knobel Hospital, outside Polokwane, by the provincial health department.

"Observations made during the inspection revealed some deficiencies, such as staff shortages, lack of adequate medical equipment, poor physical infrastructure, such as dilapidated buildings, leaking water and steam pipes, and poor condition of the Covid-19 ward.

"However, the department subsequently attended to and rectified the majority of the identified deficiencies."

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