Long wait for care as hospital takes strain
Overstretched staff, poor filing system and maintenance issues
‘Every time I’m here, I arrive at 7am and leave at 1 or 2pm.” South Rand Hospital patient Johnny Baardman is not alone as he waits among rows of disgruntled patients in the outpatient ward to receive his medication.
By 12 noon, Baardman had already waited in a two-hourlong queue for his file, during which he was told by staff members that they couldn’t locate it. Then there was another queue before he could see a doctor.
Signs plastered on the walls of the reception area advertise a “130 minutes waiting time benchmark” for the outpatient department, and 40 minutes for the pharmacy and casualty centre.
According to South Rand Hospital quality manager Sonwabo Lindani, these times are the provincial standard. He said he believed his hospital performed better than the standard in casualties, and around average in other areas.
These waiting times can be attributed to overstretched staff members and a poor filing system. Lindani said the hospital had 68 vacancies, including three doctors, with most openings being for nurses and cleaners. The filing system was intended to be switched to digital a few years ago, but the change hadn’t happened yet and patients often found their files had been lost.
“We are still far behind with the scanning of files,” Lindani said. “If we know when (a patient) is coming, we can pull the file the day before. But people come the day that suits him or her and we can’t control that.”
Daniel Stuart said he had to travel 35km to the hospital, in Rosettenville, Joburg, with his son each time he came to get his medication, and sometimes was made to return the next day because “they’ve lost my file before and now they have to start the process all over”.
Long waiting times are not the only issue the hospital faces. Last November, the DA released a report from the Gauteng Health MEC that the hospital had 4 031 building faults and was non-compliant with the Occupational Health and Safety Act in “a number of key areas”.
These faults ranged from roof leaks and wall cracks, problems with the fire escape and ventilation system, and the sewage system.
The Gauteng DA’s Jack Bloom, its spokesperson for health Dr Neil Campbell and ward councillors Michael Crichton and Faeeza Chame said they often received complaints about the hospital. Aside from long wait times, patients complained about lack of toilet paper in toilets. The group conducted a visit to the hospital yesterday to see if past problems had been addressed and to assess the state of the facility.
“We do have toilet paper but we don’t keep it in the toilets,” Lindani said, adding that people often stole it, so they were stored at the help desk.
As for the other problems, they may be more difficult to fix.
In February, the Gauteng Health Department announced it would cut spending on health care, eliminating the budget for construction projects in hospitals. In March, it announced it would be cracking down on hiring new staff in public hospitals.
Bloom said that on his last visit to the hospital at the beginning of last year, the management spoke about expanding the pharmacy and moving the psychiatric ward from the fifth floor to the first to prevent deaths by jumping out of windows, which became a problem last year when the ward was overflowing.
Neither of carried out.
“If you checked a picture of the hospital in 1952 and now, it’s exactly the same,” Lindani said. “In this building year, the Department of Infrastructure Development is probably not doing any work.”
Bloom said building maintenance was becoming critical. “Hospital management is blamed but it has no control over construction and revitalisation.”
He and Campbell agreed that South Rand was far from the worst hospital they had seen, and they were happy to see it looked clean and patients had beds. Patients also said they’d had good experiences at the hospital.
Even those who were braving the wait seemed to be taking things in their stride. Brother and sister William Hall and Cathy Groenewald said they’d been chronic patients at the hospital for a long time, and arrived with camping chairs.
“It’s not normal to come with your own chair,” Hall said. “But we know it’s hectic.”
They’ve lost my file and have to start again