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Daily News reports this month on conditions at Addington Hospital, ranging from 300 medicines running dry to an unhealthy renal unit and the halting of elective surgery, drew prompt reaction.
The haste of it was appropriate. At places of healing, especially ones this size, this well known, and this symbolic, failures can be a matter of life and death. Urgent concern from the head of this province’s health department, Dr Sibongile Zungu, was essential.
Health service failures at Addington and other South African hospitals and clinics – too many of them – are not new. Seventeen years ago, a Daily News investigation into the state of KwaZulu-Natal’s public facilities found gaping flaws.
Air conditioning often failed then at Addington, for instance, and costly, life-saving equipment in the intensive care unit was rusting because of the open windows and sea air. So the shortcomings went on.
Then, a shortage of funds was blamed. Now the problem seems to be more about managerial competence, and corruption. Supplies are being bought, it seems, but stolen.
Zungu and her Addington task force have a lot of hard work ahead to fix what has for years been a fetid wound that refuses to heal. It appears that radical surgery might be necessary, amputation even. Fifteen people have been suspended or dismissed, and the task team should just get on with what is necessary.
This overdue intervention also provides Zungu with an opportunity to clean it up properly with a view to a full, lasting recovery.
History has shown that neither tentative measures nor tip-toeing will do it. Take it on, ward for ward, floor for floor.
If Addington is repaired, Zungu can apply successful people and systems that achieved this to other ailing hospitals and clinics.
Fix Addington, we venture, and there is no other sub-standard institution that cannot be mended.