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Khayelitsha hospital under the spotlight

Poor service at the Khayelitsha District Hospital came under the spotlight at a meeting between hospital management and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).
Photo: Dalton Ndongeni
TAC members recounted complaints about staff shortages and bad treatment of patients, issues which had not been resolved in spite of several meetings with management.

Amelia Mfiki said as TAC members were leaving after a meeting last week where they had been told that “everything is good”, a stranger came up to them and complained that a family member who was a patient at the hospital had been wearing the same adult diaper for 24 hours. Staff had not responded to requests to change the diaper.

TAC member Phumeza Runeyi said when her brother was stabbed and brought to the hospital, no staff members could be found on duty to help them, not even the matron.

Addressing hospital CEO Anwar Kharwa, Mfiki said TAC was tired of bringing complaints to the hospital without anything being done. “The hospital board is representing the community, but we’ve never heard anything from them. We do not know if the board is engaging with management. We do not know if they know what is happening in the hospital. Who is the board representing?”

Little change

Since 14 May 2013, when the TAC first submitted a list of 30 testimonials from patients treated at the hospital, there has been little change, TAC representatives say. Complaints then included long waiting times in the emergency department, a shortage of beds, poor treatment by hospital staff and insufficient doctors. Since then the TAC has had several meetings with hospital management.

Hospital board member Zolile Feni acknowledged at the meeting that board members had not been “hands on” enough.

Kharwa also acknowledged the problems the hospital was facing but said TAC also had to take note of social issues in the community. “I understand your frustration and we are also frustrated by the high prevalence of violence and injuries. What we’ve noticed in Khayelitsha is that 50% of patients that enter our doors, require life-saving help.”

He said during public holidays, paydays, or a soccer match where Orlando Pirates were playing Kaizer Chiefs, the hospital added extra staff to the emergency department because young people got involved in violent arguments and there was also substance abuse.

Plans to improve services included a new mental health ward where patients were kept for 72 hours for assessment and observation, a new ward to help with the influx of patients, a CT scan service, improved surgical obstetrics services, a new orthopedic surgeon and several senior doctors in training. “We’ve had teething problems. We are addressing these,” said Kharwa.

TAC representatives, who are recognisable by their “HIV-Positive” T-shirts, said some patients came up to them with complaints and others posted messages on the TAC Facebook page. One patient complained of being left on a wheelchair to sleep after a car accident. Another said staff were rude.

TAC provincial manager Mary-Jane Matsolo said the organisation was preparing a list of the issues which needed a quick response. “We do acknowledge a lot of improvement but we would not be sitting here if things were all rosy.”
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