Patients have to sleep two in one bed because there isn't enough space at the Internal Medicine Ward at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital

Johannesburg - Two patients in one bed, overcrowding in wards, patients having to be examined sitting on chairs because of lack of bed space.

These are just some of the problems medical staff at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital’s internal medicine ward say they have to contend with daily.

This is despite doctors at the hospital’s department of medicine having raised their grievances on various platforms in the past, most recently writing a letter in the South African Medical Journal in May to decry the severe pressure on the health system and what they said were sub-optimal conditions for service delivery.

This is also despite the opening of the R730 million Zola/Jabulani Hospital Complex just two months ago. The facility was meant to alleviate patient-load pressure at Bara.

The internal medicine ward treats non-surgical, mostly elderly, patients who need diagnostics and medicine. The admissions ward has five cubicles with eight beds each. “The problem is, however, the wards are full to overflowing,” said a medical practitioner at the ward on Thursday and who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisals.

“There are usually 10 doctors at the wards a day working a 24-hour shift. Each doctor has about 30 to 40 patients alone… We cannot turn patients away, they are sick and deserve to be seen and they deserve adequate health care, and adequate health care is not sleeping on the floor,” she said.

The Star was sent pictures of some patients having to sleep huddled over with thick blankets on the floor, or having to share beds.

“Most patients suffer from respiratory diseases which have worsened because of the cold weather. The crowded conditions are unhygienic and increase the likelihood of cross-infection,” said DA spokesman for health MPL Jack Bloom.

Sources at the ward said patients had to be placed on stretchers in corridors at the department’s ward 20 - which was also full - just so that they could be accommodated. “Nurses also have an extra burden because there are so many patients in one ward… It’s really an appalling situation,” one source said.

Bloom said Jabulani Hospital was not yet fully operational after what he called a “rushed” opening shortly before the elections.

The medical practitioner at the ward agreed, saying: “This is an ongoing problem and there seems to be no solution forthcoming.”

The Star sent through queries to the hospital chief executive, Sandile Mfenyana, but was told that he was at the department’s head office and was unable to get to them by the time of publication.

The practitioner said earnestly: “Think of how it would be if it was your granny who slept on the floor.”

The Star