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The national Department of Health has admitted that security in some hospitals is slack, putting the lives of workers and patients at risk.
Fidel Hadebe, spokesman for Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, said the department was aware of security problems at some of its hospitals and it was working hard to address them, but this would come at a huge cost to the department.
He was responding to an SA Medical Association (Sama) statement that suggested hospital security was unacceptable.
Dr Mark Sonderup, acting chairman of Sama, said the association was concerned about the spate of attacks on medics, which included the hostage drama that unfolded at a Durban private hospital on Friday.
Sonderup said the hostage situation at Life Westville Hospital, where a 38-year-old man was shot dead by police after he held a woman hostage for four hours, was indicative that security was lax in both public and private health care.
“That something like this can still happen in our hospitals, be it private or public, is very disturbing and totally unacceptable. Once again we have to question hospital security in SA. We have repeatedly made calls that hospital security for all staff and patients is non-negotiable,” he said.
Sonderup said it was unfair and unacceptable that most of the government buildings received tight security, which included searching and screening at entrance, while hospitals received no such treatment.
The association therefore demanded similar security measures.
Hadebe said: “Addressing security is one of our priority projects. In fact, it was the minister (Motsoaledi) who identified security as one of the huge burdens faced by our hospitals. We understand Sama’s frustrations, but we also realise that upgrading security is complex. It will not only need significant human resources, but upgrading technology could run into billions of rands. So it’s not something that can be done overnight.”