Durban - STAFF shortages and a lack of resources were some of the major challenges facing most state hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal.

Experts believe that until these challenges are resolved, state health care facilities will be the downfall of the department.

According to the KZN Department of Health, Addington, King Edward, Prince Mshiyeni Memorial, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, King Dinuzulu, Northdale and RK Khan hospitals, and the feeder clinics, were some of the busiest state health-care facilities in the province.

Department spokesperson Agiza Hlongwane said these hospitals serviced the highest number of patients in the province, while Addington, Prince Mshiyeni Memorial, RKKhan, Edendale and Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central hospitals catered for the bulk of admitted patients.

Chairperson for the Northdale Hospital board, Rachel Soobiah, explained that the Pietermaritzburg hospital was built 44 years ago for a small Indian community.

However, “in recent years the community had outgrown the hospital”, she said.

Soobiah said the Northdale Hospital clinic catered for patients from as far as Appelbosch and Howick, and under-staffing remained a key issue in the hospital and nearby clinics.

“For example, when a nurse or doctor retires, it can take one to two years to fill the post, if at all. This leaves the wards severely understaffed. In one ward, you’ll be lucky to find four to six nurses seeing to 36 patients at a time,” she said.

She said Northdale Hospital - a district hospital - also lost a number of skilled practitioners and specialists to regional hospitals that offered them a higher salary.

“Although Northdale Hospital is a district hospital, we offer services like a regional hospital, such as orthopaedic specialities. But we often lose these skilled specialised doctors and support staff to regional hospitals, who give them allowances that we simply can’t afford,” she said.

Soobiah said the department needed to look at opening more facilities and hospitals in the area to cater for the ever-growing hospital community. She also called on the community to play a more active role in advancing the care offered to patients who visit the hospital and clinic.

“We need more hands on deck so we encourage more robust community participation,” she added.

Chairperson of the RKKhan Hospital board, Reverend Cyril Pillay, reiterated Soobiah’s comments, saying the Chatsworth-based hospital faced similar challenges.

He said the hospital also catered for a growing community outside of Chatsworth, however, the budget and staff allocation did not match the hospital’s needs.

“If the correct budget and staff compliment were allocated to our hospital, there would have been no negativity cast upon the hospital,” he said.

The Mercury