Sent home with broken bones: Patients leave Limpopo hospitals without assistance, backlog blamed

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Some patients are seemingly being sent home from Limpopo hospitals without assistance, due to a months-long surgery backlog.
Some patients are seemingly being sent home from Limpopo hospitals without assistance, due to a months-long surgery backlog.
  • The health system in Limpopo is facing a huge backlog in orthopaedic surgeries, with some patients being sent home prematurely.
  • Authorities have put the blame on the relaxation of strict Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
  • A six-year-old girl has since suffered a permanent disability due to the backlog.

The Limpopo health department is experiencing a months-long backlog in orthopaedic surgeries, with some patients seemingly being sent home from hospitals, still with broken bones and without medication.

The situation came under the spotlight again when Thabo Makgeru, 32, and a six-year-old girl, who is now permanently disabled, were sent home from Polokwane Provincial Hospital after spending almost three months there without being attended to.

Department spokesperson Neil Shikwambana confirmed the backlog and blamed the situation on the easing of strict Covid-19 regulations.

"The backlog is caused by the fact that our system is seeing a lot of people with stab wounds and injuries due to motor vehicle accidents after the easing of lockdown laws.

Shikwambana said:

We have limited capacity in terms of orthopaedic specialists, hence we do outreaches to address surgical backlogs.

He denied patients were being sent home without the necessary surgery and medication.

However, speaking to News24, Makgeru said he broke both legs and was triaged at Seshego Hospital on 20 February 2021.

Hospital to blame

He was booked for an appointment at Pietersburg Provincial Hospital on 2 March 2021, but returned home because there was no bed for him.

He was ultimately admitted on 9 March 2021, and has since not been attended to until he was sent home a week ago.

Makgeru said: 

Doctors used to come and look at us and then [they] just left. Most of the patients were also looked at and sent home before me. I spent almost three months at that hospital, and I was sent home without medication.

The family of the six-year-old girl has indicated their intention to bring a civil claim against health authorities.

The girl's uncle, Victor Theledi, said the hospital was to blame because the fracture should have been prioritised, given her age.

Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba has since issued a circular barring the management of hospitals in the province from divulging information to families and interested parties under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).

She directed that all enquiries regarding access to information should be centralised to the provincial headquarters.

"PAIA requests will no longer be accepted at facility level…" Ramathuba wrote.

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