Cape Town - A Khayelitsha widow says the appalling experience she and her late husband had at the new Khayelitsha Hospital has left her with mixed feelings about the state-of-the-art facility.
Nozuko Buthi of Site B said that not only was her sickly husband, Sajini Mfamela, 57, made to wait on a hard bench for 18 hours before he was seen to or given a bed, but the hospital failed to dialyse him for two weeks despite recommending this be done twice a week.
He died of kidney failure in November.
The hospital has countered Buthi’s claims, saying Mfamela was seen by medical staff and was monitored while lying on a trolley.
Buthi said that while the hospital, which opened exactly a year ago, had received accolades from Health MEC Theuns Botha and other health officials for its early achievements and modern infrastructure, things are not always as rosy on the inside as they seem from the outside.
Mfamela had to wait for hours for a bed, and Buthi was not allowed to stay with him.
“It was only after I made a commotion with rude nurses during the evening visiting hour that my husband was admitted… The question is why, if they saw that he was very sick, did they keep him on the bench for so long?”
Two weeks later, says Buthi, her husband was discharged into her care. Medical staff said they “couldn’t do anything for him”.
“My husband was so sick and swollen that he couldn’t even walk. I had to buy a wheelchair for him. When I asked doctors why they were discharging him in this condition and not transferring him to Tygerberg Hospital as they had initially promised, they said ‘hospitals can’t do anything more for him… take him home or to a hospice’.
“That was the most chilling response… here was a man who was kept on a hard chair for so long in the waiting room now being declared terminally ill two weeks later. The whole discharge process was done so insensitively. The hospital couldn’t even transport him home.”
Buthi believes that had her husband been given appropriate treatment, he would not have died so soon.
Following his discharge, doctors said he should be taken to the hospital twice a week for dialysis because he was accumulating water. But when the family took him back, one doctor told them that there was no need for this procedure, and referred Mfamela to the Michael Mapongwana Community Health Centre for his treatment.
When he was readmitted to Khayelitsha Hospital a few weeks later, Mfamela died within days.
“I’m not saying my husband wouldn’t have died eventually, but his death was expedited by the poor treatment he received at that hospital. His body gave in due to the excess water that was not being drained despite doctor’s orders for this to be done.
“Everything was just so horrible… the nurses were rude and unhelpful. At one point we had to clean my husband’s vomit as he was left unclean. The doctors also didn’t seem to agree on what needed to be done after his discharge. The hospital is very nice outside and has nice infrastructure, but the service provided is the complete opposite.”
Chronic shortage of beds in the trauma unit, poor service delivery, staff shortages and staff attitudes were some of the complaints residents have raised.
Commenting on Buthi’s claims, Sithembiso Magubane, spokesman for the provincial Department of Health, confirmed that Mfamela was acutely ill when he was admitted, but denied that he waited long before being treated.
“He was admitted at 5am for shortness of breath. He was immediately assessed and triaged as category orange. He was reviewed by the emergency unit specialists at 8am with the laboratory investigations requested earlier. The team decided to observe him in the emergency unit for 24 hours to stabilise his potassium level.”
Magubane denied that Mfamela had been left to sit on a hard bench.
“The patient was managed on an emergency trolley in the emergency centre (a bed). Hospital beds are actively managed by the hospital bed management team. Critically ill patients that require intense monitoring are observed in the emergency unit and transferred to the ward once stable.”
Mfamela was discharged after 20 days in a “stable condition after the medical team informed his family of his diagnosis and poor prognosis”, Magubane said.
“Patient complaints and compliments are actively monitored… all complaints are investigated. Where staff have erred, progressive discipline has been implemented.”