Picture: Hafidz Mubarak A/Pool Photo via AP
Picture: Hafidz Mubarak A/Pool Photo via AP

Public Protector says healthcare professionals at State hospitals work in shocking conditions

By Noni Mokati Time of article published Dec 21, 2020

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Johannesburg - Findings of a report released by the Public Protector's office on Monday have detailed shocking conditions to which healthcare professionals have been subjected amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

In her address to the media at a press briefing held in Pretoria, Deputy Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka said inspections had been carried out at various healthcare institutions in provinces such as Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal in a bid to ascertain the state of readiness of the various hospitals to cope with pressures brought by the pandemic.

The inspections were also carried out following various complaints submitted to the Public Protector of irregular activities at State Hospitals which included poor operations at Jubilee Hospital, George Mukhari, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital Uitenhurg Hospital, St Mary's in Durban and in Limpopo, Capricorn District Hospital to name a few.

She said, at the Lilian Ngoyi Hospital for instance, new mothers were left to their own devices to give birth on the floor without being provided with heaters, nutritious food while geysers have not been made available for them to access hot water to bath themselves and their new babies.

"This needs to be addressed urgently," Gcaleka said.

In relation to the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the DPP said the national and provincial departments of health have been found wanting and have failed the public.

"There was an insufficient distribution of PPE. (Another) cause of concern is that the equipment was collected from the warehouse by the department and not hospitals as according to their needs."

"The centralisation of procurement is a challenge for these hospitals. (In some instances) staff were required to use one PPE a day. Some wards were not provided with appropriate PPE.

Only doctors were provided with full PPE and not all medical staff in some instances. Some were required to reuse masks," she said.

She further added: "Nurses were only given one body suit a day. Incorrect sizes (of these body suits) resulted in immediate tearing in some instances. Procurement of PPE was not as per specifications and also reported to be substandard. Stock at the warehouse was low and ran out at some stage."

Other matters that were picked up by the PP’s office in its findings was the issue of key posts not being filled resulting in a shortage of staff to conduct elective surgeries with matters further exacerbated by the lack of communication between labour unions and hospital management.

The PP’s office has since recommended that at Jubille Hospital, the department should ensure that it assists the hospital in conducting its own Covid-19 tests and that the department immediately train all staff and for risk management committees to be established.

“As a way forward, the oversight of the MECs and mremiers will be vital to achieve good governance. The minister’s office should submit an action plan to detail how the facilities will deal with the irregular procurement of PPEs,” she said.

The report is set to be handed over to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and National Treasury.

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