Long wait for care as hos­pi­tal takes strain

Over­stretched staff, poor fil­ing sys­tem and main­te­nance is­sues

The Star Late Edition - - NEWS - LILA REYNOLDS AND PUSELETSO LUTSOISA these had been

‘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

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