Staff speak out at Eden­dale hos­pi­tal

Health still ‘dis­cussing’ on­go­ing crit­i­cal short­ages


EDEN­DALE Hos­pi­tal’s doc­tors “are strug­gling like hell to save lives”.

Hos­pi­tal sources who spoke to The Wit­ness on con­di­tion of anonomity said nurses and doc­tors are ex­hausted by a daily bat­tle against crit­i­cal staff short­ages and bro­ken equip­ment which is putting the well­be­ing of pa­tients at risk.

The hos­pi­tal’s emer­gency de­part­ment, built as a “state of the art” unit, was com­pleted just over a year ago.

How­ever, equip­ment and beds or­dered two years ago had still not ar­rived and im­por­tant equip­ment such as di­ag­nos­tic scan­ners have been bro­ken for a year.

The source said the de­part­ment, which is headed up by spe­cial­ist emer­gency doc­tors and trauma nurses, was es­tab­lished to han­dle emer­gency pa­tients in par­tic­u­lar. But it re­mains un­fin­ished and is not fully op­er­a­tional.

Only eight out of 16 beds or­dered two years ago ar­rived, and vi­tal equip­ment is ei­ther bro­ken, or has never ar­rived.

“Even if the other eight beds did ar­rive, there would not be enough staff to cover them,” the source said.

The emer­gency de­part­ment caters for the “walk­ing wounded” (mi­nor in­juries) and emer­gency trauma pa­tients.

The de­part­ment also has two op­er­at­ing the­atres, one for mi­nor pro­ce­dures and the other for emer­gen­cies.

How­ever, at present the emer­gency the­atre re­mains closed.

The source said this is be­cause spe­cialised equip­ment for the the­atre that was al­legedly promised was never de­liv­ered.

One par­tic­u­lar piece of equip­ment, the Lodex ma­chine that scans crit­i­cal pa­tients from head to toe within three min­utes, thereby help­ing doc­tors to lo­cate the most crit­i­cal in­juries in a pa­tient, failed to ar­rive.

“There is space for it. The unit was built with the in­ten­tion that the Lodex scan­ner would be there but it never ar­rived and there is no ex­pla­na­tion as to why,” said the source. “The staffing is­sue is also dev­as­tat­ing. “We are hav­ing to do more work to cover the va­can­cies that have not been filled by the Health De­part­ment.

“The emer­gency de­part­ment is re­ally some­thing to be proud of. It has the best mon­i­tors money can buy but there are no ser­vice plans for the equip­ment and main­te­nance of the ma­chines is al­most non­ex­is­tent.”

An­other source said doc­tors and nurses are “bend­ing over back­wards to fill the holes” cre­ated by mul­ti­ple va­can­cies for nurse and doc­tor posts.

“The hos­pi­tal has fan­tas­tic doc­tors but ev­ery­one has to dou­ble up so it ap­pears as if there is noth­ing wrong but the staff are ex­hausted,” said the source.

The source said Eden­dale hos­pi­tal’s R10 million CT scan­ner broke in De­cem­ber and was fixed at a cost of R1,6 million in April. After a week it broke again and was re­paired at a cost of R80 000, but is bro­ken once again.

While the Health De­part­ment main­tains the scan­ner is fixed and cur­rently work­ing, staff dis­pute this.

The source said pa­tients need­ing a CT scan, say after a ma­jor ac­ci­dent, have to be re­ferred to other hos­pi­tals with a scan­ner, but only once they are sta­ble enough. They then re­turn to Eden­dale for their treat­ment.

The source said this process has cost lives, and although it didn’t hap­pen of­ten those deaths could have been pre­vented.

“Doc­tors are bat­tling like hell to save lives,” said the source.

The source also com­plained that doc­tors, nurses and even the re­gional man­age­ment bat­tle to get in­for­ma­tion from the Health De­part­ment.

It was as if there is a “cloud” hang­ing over the de­part­ment that staff can­not see through or get to.

“They hand down in­struc­tions but they are un­touch­able and can­not be con­tacted.

“The minute a pa­tient walks through the hos­pi­tal door, doc­tors are sup­posed to pro­tect them. How­ever, there is only so much that can be done with­out the nec­es­sary equip­ment ... If all the spe­ cial­ists had to leave the public sec­tor, as many are do­ing, the sys­tem would col­lapse spec­tac­u­larly,” said the source.

KZN Health De­part­ment spokesper­son Sam Mkhwanazi told The Wit­ness that in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment and im­prove­ment is part of gov­ern­ment’s plan to im­prove health care in the prov­ince, which is faced with a “high bur­den of dis­ease”.

The de­part­ment’s short­ and long­term plans in­clude buy­ing equip­ment and al­lo­cat­ing skilled hu­man re­sources within the avail­able bud­get.

“The De­part­ment of Health is com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing qual­ity health­care ser­vices to the peo­ple of KwaZulu­Natal within the re­sources at its dis­posal,” said Mkhwanazi.

“Where there are chal­lenges, in­clud­ing staff short­ages, the de­part­ment is dis­cussing these within gov­ern­ment, and with its so­cial part­ners such as labour unions with a view to find­ing so­lu­tions.”

Mkhwanazi said the com­mis­sion­ing plan for the emer­gency unit at Eden­dale Hos­pi­tal was based on a phased ap­proach that will progress dur­ing the 2017/18 fi­nan­cial year.

“The staff re­cruit­ment plan is aligned with the com­mis­sion­ing plan for the unit which will be im­ple­mented dur­ing the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year,” he said.

“The Lodex ma­chine is pri­ori­tised for pro­cure­ment dur­ing the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year.

“The CT scan­ner has been re­paired and is func­tional. Ba­sic clin­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tions are be­ing con­ducted while the CT in­jec­tor (which en­hances clin­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tions) is be­ing at­tended to,” he said.

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