‘Mr Fix-it’ appointed to sort out Addington Hospital
A new CEO has been appointed to lead the turnaround at the beleaguered Addington Hospital in what is already being hailed as a turning point in its fortunes.
But the Eastern Cape health department could still make a late bid to retain Dr Kobus Kotze, who is to begin work at Addington next week.
He is considered “Mr Fix-it” in the Eastern Cape, where he is currently serving as the acting CEO of the East London hospital complex – a cluster of three government health institutions.
He took over the reins there in May last year, charged with responsibility for the East London mental health unit and the Frere and Cecil Makiwane hospitals. The latter hospital was experiencing its share of problems, including the death of 29 babies from December 2010 to January 2011, due to the outbreak of an infection.
Dr Thokozani Mhlongo, KwaZulu-Natal hospital services manager, said the department had to headhunt Kotze for Addington, because “nobody would take up this post”.
Dr Sibongile Zungu, head of the KZN Department of Health, confirmed the appointment.
“Yes, he [Kotze] could be considered as the new broom that will sweep clean the place,” Zungu said on Sunday.
She said Kotze had been appointed at Addington because he had medical and corporate management expertise. He has also held various positions at other hospitals, including senior medical manager at Garankuwa Hospital and medical superintendent at the Pretoria Academic and Odi Community hospitals.
“He understands the operations of a hospital and also the corporate issues such as finance and human resource management,” Zungu said.
However, the department has been very cautious in releasing information on Kotze, whose services the Eastern Cape Health Department is keen to retain.
Sizwe Kupelo, spokesman for the Department of Health in the Eastern Cape, would not say whether any notification had been received from Kotze on his pending departure.
Some of the problems that have plagued the hospital in recent months have been blamed on the leadership vacuum created since the retirement of the hospital’s CEO last year and later the suspension of its medical manager for alleged fraudulent activities.
The new CEO would have his work cut out for him in trying to restore the hospital to its glory days. Members of the KZN legislature (MPLs) have expressed a desire to see improvements at the hospital within three months.
Some of the recent interventions seem to have yielded very little results at Addington, as the MPLs discovered during a tour on Friday.
They found that only two of the six theatres were operational, a situation blamed on air conditioners that had not been working since Thursday.
One staffer told MPLs that some of the lights had to be switched off in the theatres to try to keep temperatures under control. “But the temperature here [in the hallway] is still about 26 degrees. It gets extremely hot when you are under the theatre light.”
The hospital had suspended all elective surgeries on Friday. Committee members expressed concerns that while the situation continued, it meant that some of the theatre staff were being paid to sit and do nothing while the theatres were not operational.
But Zungu said the mechanical problems experienced with air conditioners were not something that could be foreseen. “We also need to take into consideration that the hospital is currently undergoing renovations and construction is in itself disruptive,” Zungu said, referring to the R200 million facelift under way.
The department said it was also in the process of appointing an in-house engineer to assist with maintenance work.
Another major problem that continues to haunt the hospital is the shortage of supplies.
On Friday, some theatre supplies – including crepe bandages, skin staples, gauze and mopping swabs – were listed as being out of stock.
Zungu said department officials were dealing with the situation of supplies, but stressed that operational managers played a key role in ensuring there were enough supplies.
Corruption has also been blamed for the shortages. Zungu added that in some cases some officials would not order supplies in time until the stocks were very low, which allowed them to by-pass procurement procedures as allowed for in emergencies.
Uncovering these corrupt activities has led to the suspension of at least 11 staff (two supply management officers and nine supply officers) in the supply chain management division, putting further strain on the procurement of supplies.
Compounding the problem was the attitude of the staff, with some employees resisting change, the MPLs heard.