NEWS & ANALYSIS

Lies and deceit at St Mary's Hospital disappointing – DA KZN

Imran Keeka says patient hidden away in gynaecology war to make out-patients dept look less busy

#HospitalHealthCheck: DA disappointed by lies and deceit at St Mary’s Hospital

20 May 2018

An announced oversight inspection by the Democratic Alliance (DA) to St Mary's Hospital late last week, as part of the DA's #HospitalHealthCheck Campaign, was marred by deceit after hospital management tried to create the impression of a less-congested out-patients department. This was confirmed to the DA by reliable medical sources within the facility.

During the visit the DA also found a patient who should have been in the out-patients area, hidden away in the gynaecology ward – all part of the plan to make the out-patients department look less busy.

The DA is extremely disappointed by this. Certainly there was no need for such deceit when the very purpose of the oversight inspection was to establish issues and report them back to the Department so that they can be dealt with and so that patient care can ultimately be improved.
The truth is that many patients at St Mary’s are adversely affected by prolonged waiting times. This was also confirmed after speaking to ward patients and those waiting in the pharmacy area. Currently, pharmacy waiting times are as long as three hours while there are also medicine shortages.

During my walk-about I also spoke to doctors and nurses who all complained of shortages of simple and everyday disposables such as syringes, needles and "jelcos" which are used for intravenous access to set up drips. Worse still, I was informed that doctors operating on patients do not have the correct size gloves and they also do not have the correct absorbable sutures - more commonly known as melting stitches - used during essential procedures.

This is simply shocking when the Department of Health (DoH) had to pay a massive R421 million medico-legal bill in the last financial year. For dedicated staff not to have the most basic and essential items is just looking for more trouble.

The visit also revealed that the hospital does not have an onsite laboratory. The result is that patients are often taken into theatre without the necessary blood tests. According to staff, routine blood samples are taken to RK Khan Hospital, some 20 kilometres away, which has its own problems in terms of transport and delays in ensuring that tests are returned in time. A simple and inexpensive interim solution would be for the DoH to make a scooter available. This needs to be urgently considered and plans made for the building of a laboratory.

The hospital is also suffering a gross shortage of medical and nursing staff. This despite doctors previously having complained of very difficult and unbearable working conditions which are leading to fatigue and burnout amongs all staff. The situation is not unique to St Mary’s with the KZN DoH currently sitting with a massive total of 5 926 critical post vacancies.

The DA was advised that with the recent take-over by the DoH, a new organogram is currently being finalised, with the hospital CEO also assuring me that vacant posts have been advertised and will be filled. The DA will visit this facility in a reasonable period of time to verify whether this has taken place.

With the recent take-over, the new Chief Executive Officer has only been in office for 10 working days. This hospital has a motivated management team and staff and management in particular should not create false impressions and hide concerns during future oversight inspections – simply out of fear of exposing the inadequacies imposed on them at a provincial level. They are also being let down by bureaucracy and delays imposed by KZN’s Health Department. To ensure better patient care, the red tape need to be cut immediately.

The DA has communicated on all of the above matters and on our findings and concerns to KZN’s Acting Head of Department. He has assured me that they will be looked into and addressed imminently.

The DA will continue to monitor the situation at St Mary’s Hospital and will, in the interim, submit written parliamentary questions to the MEC. We will also arrange for an oversight inspection within a three month period to check on progress.

At the end of its countrywide #HospitalHealthCheck campaign, the DA will announce the steps that will be taken to ensure better public healthcare for all South Africans across the country.

Issued by Imran KeekaDA KZN Spokesperson on Health, 21 May 2018