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Johannesburg - Seventeen percent of intensive care unit (ICU) beds are not operational in Gauteng public hospitals because of budget constraints, the DA in the province said on Thursday.
“This shock figure is revealed by Gauteng health MEC Hope Papo in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng legislature,” said the party's provincial health spokesman Jack Bloom.
This meant that 54 out of 319 ICU beds were not being used because there was not enough money, and because of a shortage of qualified ICU nurses.
Steve Biko Academic Hospital had the most unused ICU beds, at 17 out of 60, followed by Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, at 10 out of 49.
Kalafong and Tambo Memorial hospitals each had six, Helen Joseph and Pholosong hospitals each had four, Leratong hospital had three and Dr George Mukhari and Sebokeng hospitals each had two unused beds.
All the ICU beds at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic, Tembisa, Natalspruit and Far East Rand hospitals were operational.
Health department spokesman Simon Zwane said the department had a plan to fill posts at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic hospital and was working on a plan to fill vacancies at other hospitals.
All this had to be done within the available budget and on recommendation to the head of department.
“We are in the process of addressing all of those issues,” he said.
Regarding Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, for example, the department had opened an accident and emergency unit at Tshiawelo Clinic to take some of the load.
The construction of Jabulani Hospital would also assist when it was completed.
Earlier this year, it emerged that medical staff faced such shortages that they said at times they had to decide who lived when choosing who to treat first.
One reportedly used a camping head torch for light during operations.
Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane attended an urgent meeting with some of the medical staff where she heard some of these accounts.
On August 15 she called for a review of the funding of provincial hospitals and the filling of critical vacancies.