Hospi­tal’s staffing cri­sis

Pa­tients forced to wait out­side overnight for treat­ment


THE short­age of doc­tors at the Ma­hatma Gandhi Me­mo­rial Hospi­tal in Phoenix has re­sulted in day pa­tients hav­ing to camp out­side the fa­cil­ity overnight, to en­sure they are among the first in the queue the next morn­ing.

Pa­tients claim the back­log in pro­vid­ing out-pa­tient care has been tak­ing place for two years, leav­ing them with no choice but to wait out­side the hospi­tal’s front gate.

But man­age­ment says the premises is be­ing cleaned at night, and they can­not al­low pa­tients in­side.

On Thurs­day at 8pm, a dozen pa­tients of vary­ing ages braved the wind to join the queue. The num­bers swelled by mid­night.

A no­tice on the gate read: “Pa­tients, please be ad­vised that you are not al­lowed to come to the hospi­tal a day be­fore your ap­point­ment date and wait for your file. Doors will be opened at 04H30 . . .”

Ravi Pil­lay, 55, who ar­rived at 4.30pm for his monthly check-up, said: “If I don’t queue here this early, I can for­get about see­ing a doc­tor de­spite hav­ing an ap­point­ment. There are a few doc­tors, who will see to the back­log of pa­tients first be­fore start­ing with us. The sad part is the hospi­tal man­age­ment is aware that we are wait­ing here but they lack em­pa­thy.”

Ra­jan Mood­ley, 59, who has had a heart by­pass surgery, had been wait­ing since 2.30pm.

He said his health was de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, and it was im­per­a­tive he re­ceived treat­ment. “If I ar­rive in the morn­ing, there will be dozens of peo­ple ahead of me.”

El­derly pa­tients, he added, used the toi­let fa­cil­i­ties dur­ing vis­it­ing hours. “They also rest their feet in­doors, but once the vis­it­ing hour is over, they must re­turn out­side or are chased out by se­cu­rity.”

Ath­madass Mo­habir, 79, who re­cently un­der­went heart by­pass surgery and needed to col­lect his med­i­ca­tion, was also in the queue.

Another woman, 64, had bandages on her leg. “I have vari­cose vein ul­cers and my arthri­tis is trou­bling me. But what can I do? We are not rich to go to a pri­vate hospi­tal, but that also does not mean we should be treated like this.”

Hospi­tal board mem­ber, Pas­tor Mervyn Reddy said the benches were stacked so that the floors could be cleaned. He added the toi­lets were also cleaned in the evenings.

“We em­pathise with the pa­tients as we are aware of the na­tional cri­sis of short­age of doc­tors. How­ever, we can­not al­low pa­tients to sit in­side. Another con­cern is if pa­tients with chronic ill­nesses fall ill. This will be­come the hospi­tal’s re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Mi­nor­ity Front coun­cil­lor Jonathan An­nipen said: “The con­di­tions at the hospi­tal are de­plorable be­cause of the in­dis­crim­i­nate poli­cies of the Depart­ment of Health. They have re­duced the staff by not fill­ing the va­can­cies of nurses and other crit­i­cal posts, which is the rea­son why peo­ple are forced to queue out­side.

“If the depart­ment spent more money on staff, it would spend less money on lit­i­ga­tion and law suits, which is where the largest chunk of the bud­get is spent at present.”

The spokesper­son for the Depart­ment of Health in KZN, Ncumisa Ma­funda, said out­pa­tients could en­ter the hospi­tal’s premises at 4am as their files would be is­sued from 5am.

The phar­ma­cists and doc­tors re­port to duty by 7.30am.

She said the hospi­tal ser­viced a large catch­ment area, which in­cluded Phoenix, Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu, and this led to a high de­mand for health­care ser­vices and re­sulted in over­crowd­ing.

A large num­ber of peo­ple with mi­nor ail­ments, added Ma­funda, also went to the hospi­tal in­stead of pri­mary health care clin­ics.

“How­ever, it is an­tic­i­pated that over­crowd­ing at the hospi­tal will be al­le­vi­ated by the im­mi­nent open­ing of the brand new Dr Pix­ley Ka Isaka Seme Hospi­tal, which is due by the mid­dle of 2019,” she said.

To help re­duce long queues and wait­ing times, the Depart­ment en­cour­aged those pa­tients who fetched their chronic med­i­ca­tion to sign up with the Cen­tral Chronic Medicines Dis­pens­ing and Dis­tri­bu­tion (CCMDD) pro­gramme.

“This pro­gramme will en­able them to re­ceive their chronic med­i­ca­tion from com­mu­nity halls, li­braries, places of wor­ship and other com­mu­nity ameni­ties that are closer to their homes – and only come to the hospi­tal once af­ter three months,” she said.

Pa­tients may reg­is­ter at their near­est health fa­cil­ity and choose the pick-up point that is con­ve­nient to col­lect the medicine from.


ABOVE: The Ma­hatma Gandhi Me­mo­rial Hospi­tal in Phoenix.


LEFT: Pa­tients start queue­ing from the night be­fore out­side the hospi­tal.

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