The main entrance to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu on Friday promised to conduct surprise visits to hospitals to check on their day-to-day operations.

“In future I won't inform anyone and I don't want to be channelled into a certain department,” she told reporters in Soweto, Johannesburg.

She was on a site visit to Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital. She spent at least two hours walking through the hospital and talking to staff. She said future visits would focus on the cleanliness of facilities and staff behaviour.

“It is important that our health system be clean and proper all the time. It 1/8health system 3/8 should not only be clean during visits. It should be clean all the time, even if I was to visit at midnight after my cycling,” she said.

There was a puddle of water in one of the corridors, apparently due to a water leak. Some windows were broken while others appeared to have recently been installed. There was also a sewage leak.

Mahlangu called on managers to attend to problems immediately to ensure they did not hamper the work of doctors and nurses.

“Of concern to me was a sewage burst which I expected to be fixed as soon as possible. If problems are identified, we should not wait for hours before they are fixed.”

Mahlangu had a stern warning for her former office, the infrastructure development department, to act speedily once hospital staff had complaints regarding infrastructure.

“I'm hoping 1/8the department 3/8 will come to the party. Doctors and nurses should not have to worry about plugs that don't work.”

Mahlangu admitted the hospital, the biggest in the southern hemisphere, was short-staffed.

“In the next five years I intend to address the shortages of nurses and doctors here at Baragwanath Hospital.”

She said if staff at all hospitals worked together and were at their work stations when patients walked in, improvements would be evident.

“My commitment to them, even to the hospitals I have not visited, is that... if we all adhere to our time commitments, the problems will be resolved over a period of time.”

Mahlangu said the problems she had been told of in the neonatal, paediatric, and maternity wards were alarming.

The shortage of doctors and lack of equipment had to be addressed urgently.

“I will go back to the office and see what we can do. I'm working with the private sector to assist and they were just waiting for me to complete the visit to see what is needed,” she said.

Mahlangu admitted that the problems would not be fixed overnight, but called on all in the health sector to work together to achieve better service.

She applauded doctors who had stayed in the public health sector.

“I am highly impressed and humbled by the commitment of doctors who have stayed in the public sector. We need to applaud them for the work they do in difficult situations,” Mahlangu said.

She said her office would look into the problems experienced at the newly-opened Jabulani Hospital in Zola.

The hospital was supposed to alleviate the backlog at Baragwanath, which was not happening.

“I intend to make Zola function properly. We are going to get to the bottom of why it is not working,” she said.