5-day wait for hospital bed

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Cape Town - When Marlene van Wyk, 75, had a heart attack in her Strand home last week, her family got her to the Helderberg Hospital as soon as they could.

They never anticipated that she would spend another five days without a hospital bed.

Van Wyk who fell ill on Wednesday night spent a total of 23 hours sitting on the hard benches in the hospital’s trauma unit over two days before she was given a stretcher, which she lay in for five days, until on Monday.

She was only given a proper bed following questions to the provincial Department of Health by the Cape Argus.

Now her daughter, Liesle van Wyk, has lodged a formal complaint against the hospital alleging its critical shortage of beds not only resulted in poor treatment of her mother, but failure to allocate her a bed amounted to indecent treatment of the elderly.

Sithembiso Magubane, spokesman for the provincial Department of Health, confirmed that Van Wyk had been placed on a trolley as the hospital was experiencing huge patient load.

“(This) was the only option at the time as the whole hospital was exceptionally busier than usual at this time of the year,” Magubane said.

He, however, denied that Van Wyk had suffered a heart attack, “but rather has heart failure”, which had to be treated in a district level hospital. But Liesle van Wyk, who had to travel from Napier to see her mother, was not convinced.

“My mother was very sick. Her blood pressure and sugar were rocketing. Doctors struggled for hours to bring her blood pressure under control.

“You would think that someone who is that sick and old would be given priority, but no she was made to wait on the hard benches just like others,” she said.

She commended ambulance staff for their prompt response when called to take her mother to hospital, but blamed the hospital management for the critical shortage of beds.

The shortage of beds at the Somerset West hospital is not new. A year ago the hospital came under fire after Marius Gerber, of Somerset West, had to sleep in his car after he suffered a heart attack.

He was given a bed 48 hours later after his wife Mariette contacted the media.

On Thursday, Magubane said Van Wyk was due to be evaluated by a family physician as a priority, and “will be admitted to a ward shortly”.

Liesle van Wyk later confirmed that her mother had been given a bed.

“I just spoke to her she is happy for the first time. I just don’t know why I had to go through extreme measures to get proper attention.

“Why do you have to fight to get attention?” she asked.


Cape Argus

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