This follows revelations that some patients were in some instances forced to sleep on cold hospital floors and benches at district hospitals while waiting to be transferred to tertiary hospitals such as Greys in Pietermaritzburg and Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban.
Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo expressed shock after he found patients, including a cancer patient, sleeping on the floor and hospital benches when he made a surprise visit to the Church of Scotland Hospital in Umsinga on Sunday.
Dhlomo had found Mamizi Mkhize, a cancer patient who was awaiting to be transferred to Greys, kneeling on the bench as she did not want to put her pelvis on the concrete floor.
With her were more than a dozen mothers who were taking their children to hospitals in Pietermaritzburg.
“I am surprised and angry that a matter we resolved long ago has not been effected at this hospital. These patients left their homes and come here so that they can be reviewed I saw a patient, Mrs Mamizi Mkhize, who has advanced cancer. I found her kneeling on the bench as she says she cannot put her pelvis on the concrete floor.
“It was obvious if I had not arrived there, she was going to remain kneeling for the whole night,” Dhlomo said.
The MEC had ordered the hospital to ensure the patients had a more suitable place to sleep. He said hospitals have to find innovative ways to treat patients with respect and dignity, and to provide them with decent healthcare.
But Denosa provincial secretary Mandla Shabangu said the problem was widespread as hospitals did not know how to deal with the issue as they lacked resources and the manpower. “We have been raising this issue for many years now. We are therefore surprised that the MEC acts like he is seeing or hearing of this for the first time.”
He said the management of hospitals was not to blame as the department lacked a clear plan and guidelines on how patients waiting to be transferred should be accommodated. It was inhumane to let patients sleep on the floor. “On paper you are supposed to have these patients who come and lodge for a night while waiting for transport but nobody says what happens to those patients. Do they get places in the same room and just left there? Are they booked in as patients because these are sickly people,” asked Shabangu.