Picture: Steven Naidoo/Independent Media
DURBAN - The situation in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health is not getting any better, with more units failing to provide treatment because of broken machines.

Currently, the reverse osmosis machine is broken at King Edward VIII Hospital, resulting in the disruption of treatment for dialysis patients.

Vijay Chowthee, 57, last received proper treatment at the hospital in October.

Last Thursday, the machine was broken. On Monday and Tuesday, it was still broken. He said he would return on Thursday.

“This has been a long journey for me and other patients. We have written numerous letters to the hospital chief executive stating the condition of the renal dialysis unit. This machine purifies the tap water before it goes into the dialysis machine.

“I attend this unit twice a week and I have had to survive on painkillers and resting at home,” Chowthee said.

He said the minimum charge for a session at private facilities was about R800, and if you required three sessions per week you paid triple the amount.

“I would like to see the department doing something. If there are people behind this state of affairs in government hospitals, then those people must be brought to book,” Chowthee said.

The Daily News had seen two letters addressed to the hospital’s public relations officer for the attention of the chief executive.

A letter dated November 16, 2016, had 13 signatures. The one dated April 3, 2017, had 23.

The patients stated that on March 30, the machine was not working and tap water was used for dialysis, resulting in some patients suffering from nausea, vomiting, dizziness and headaches.

The Daily News reported this week that surgeries at King Edward were delayed due to a problem with the air conditioning in the theatres.

The provincial health portfolio committee has a responsibility to oversee the smooth running of the department, and that department officials are held to account.

Yesterday, the Daily News asked Yusuf Bhamjee, the committee chairman, what they had done so far after the litany of complaints, media reports and the recent doctors’ march demanding better working conditions and fully functional equipment in health-care facilities.

“As a portfolio committee we take civil society complaints seriously when brought to us. We do refer matters to the department and we engage, we get positive feedback,” Bhamjee said.

He said they could only attend to and refer issues if there was evidence.

Ntsiki Mpulo, Section 27’s spokesperson, said there were “so many components” that needed attention to “fix” the provincial health system. (Section 27 is a non-profit organisation advocating for health and other services across the country.)

“The national office (Health) should be intervening in this crisis. With the national budget sitting at more than R40billion, there should be an allocation to fix what is dysfunctional for the sake of the lives of the poor,” she said.

Mpulo said Section 27 became involved after being approached by concerned doctors.

Section 27 and the Treatment Action Campaign, an advocacy group, said many of the doctors and nurses who have spoken out about the “appalling” conditions in the public sector have worked at the hospitals for more than 20years.

Imran Keeka, DA spokesperson for health, said there were two nephrology (renal) specialists attending to 80 patients a day in eThekwini.

By late Wednesday, the department had not responded to e-mailed questions sent earlier in the day.

Read one of the two letters sent to King Edward Hospital's PRO for the attention of the CEO

Daily News