Health MEC Hope Papo. Photo: Tiro Ramatlhatse

Pretoria - Without clean sheets, pillowcases and towels, hospitals cannot function properly.

For more than a year, some of the city hospitals have been short of linen, with patients being asked to bring their own.

Industrial action at the Rosslyn state laundry, the breakdown of machines and power interruptions have been blamed for the problems.

In a written reply presented in the legislature, Health MEC Hope Papo said “intermittent” problems had affected public hospitals across the province.

“Items including nightdresses, theatre towels and gowns, doctors’ shirts and trousers have been in short supply for a year,” he said.

Hospitals also ran out of pillowcases and draw sheets, among other items. Papo acknowledged problems in some laundries and low holding stock levels against the number of admissions.

“The breakdown of machines and power interruptions also affect the normal running of the laundry, resulting in backlogs.”

Last year, staff in various local hospitals related their struggle to cope without linen and other items required in the provision of basic health care.

Although there was no response from the Department of Health this week, spokesman Simon Zwane last July said: “We have sub-contracted private-sector laundries to assist in cleaning linen while efforts are being made to improve services at government laundries such as Masakhane.”

He said hospitals had permission to procure equipment for laundromats to wash their linen in emergencies.

DA spokesman Jack Bloom said the shortages were unacceptable, especially when they resulted in cancellation of surgery, or forced patients to bring their own linen.

“Management problems at the Masakhane laundry in Rosslyn affect hospitals as far afield as Joburg,” he said, urging the department to allow hospitals to use private laundries, which were more reliable and cheaper than state laundries.

He said there were concerns about the control of infection as patients wore their own clothes and slept on sheets from home.

He said the department was replacing condemned linen, repairing broken equipment and putting in place better systems for laundry management logistics.

“We are looking at buying smaller machines for some hospitals.”

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