Picture: SOWETAN-SUNDAY WORLD
Picture: SOWETAN-SUNDAY WORLD

Khayelitsha District Hospital is in the midst of a crisis‚ picketing Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) members said on Wednesday.

Western Cape chairman Vuyani Macotha said monitoring by the TAC since a parliamentary oversight visit to the six-year-old Cape Town hospital painted a picture of overcrowding‚ shortages of staff and beds and neglect of patients.

"Patients are sleeping on the floor of the hospital because there simply aren’t enough beds‚" said Macotha. "The hospital was built to handle 400‚000 people‚ but it is widely thought that the population of Khayelitsha is closer to two-million.

"Sleeping on the floor is only part of the mistreatment that patients may get … but it is emblematic of a growing problem: inattentive and inadequate care on behalf of hospital staff and management." In April‚ during a visit to the hospital by Parliament’s select committee on petitions and executive undertakings‚ ward councillor Patrick Mngxunyeni told hospital CEO Anwar Kharwa: "If there is a staff shortage‚ you need to confront it. We need to service people and confront issues instead of blaming.

"Why are people sitting here for more than five hours? We can’t go back to the community again and again on issues they have raised. It is clear that here is a backlog. That needs to change." Emergency room doctor Hendrick Lategan told MPs that scores of patients were using chairs owing to the bed shortage — and confirmed that staff shortages were a problem.

Kharwa assured committee members that interventions to address complaints at the hospital were "imminent". But health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo condemned what she called "an aggressive‚ unannounced and unauthorised oversight visit"‚ accusing the committee of playing politics with health.

"The manner in which the visit was conducted‚ was experienced as traumatic — being confrontational‚ blaming staff personally and directly for perceived poor service delivery‚" she said.

"The department recognises that the hospital is under pressure‚ similar to others in the metro … where we experience very high emergency and trauma load‚ fuelled by violence‚ particularly over weekends.

"The hospital is in the process of converting agency posts to permanent posts‚ commissioning 30 extra beds‚ and planning a psychiatric unit for observation and a CT scanner service for better diagnostic capability. This is all under way." Macotha said the TAC met Kharwa later in April and asked him to reduce waiting times‚ improve staff attitudes and accountability‚ increase bed capacity‚ address the shortage of doctors and nurses‚ ensure a proper complaints system and establish a permanent clinic committee and a strong hospital board.

"During the meeting the hospital management outlined expansion plans including the addition of more beds and a new wing to create more space. However‚ as of yet no changes have been seen. Further‚ the issues relating to shortages of staff‚ neglect and poor attitudes were not addressed.

"This Mandela Day we are picketing against the poor treatment of the patients at Khayelitsha District Hospital. We are doing so in the memory of Mandela‚ who supported integrity‚ honour‚ patients’ rights and patients’ dignity‚" he said on Wednesday.

Responding to the TAC’s complaints on Wednesday‚ provincial health department spokesperson Sithembiso Magubane said "huge demand" for the hospital’s 300 beds meant their occupancy rate was running at 130%.

"There are a number of plans and interventions planned for the hospital to improve its services. Some have been put into operation‚ others are in the process of implementation‚" he said.

"The department will release its updated plans in a statement next week, which will inform the community of pending plans." Magubane said Mbombo met the TAC on June 13.

"A formal response was submitted to the TAC in which the department communicated steps to address the concerns raised by them."

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