Durban - Sweeping changes have taken place at Addington Hospital over the past 24 hours, with the urgent replenishment of stocks and rescheduling of elective surgeries, which were due to start on Friday.

The head of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, Dr Sibongile Zungu, has stepped in, and after a marathon 12-hour meeting, she announced she would be leading a task team for the next three months. It will look into the management and operational problems at the Durban hospital.

With more than 10 years of experience as a hospital manager, Zungu said she would be working day and night to ensure patient care was no longer compromised.

The eight-member task team will include eThekwini Health district manager Penny Dladla, Dr T Mhlongo, and a matron and a stores manager, who are being asked to come out of retirement.

Allegations of fraud and corruption and the suspension of several staff at the hospital’s supply chain department had resulted in medicines running dry and elective surgery having to be cancelled.

Corruption had been a huge challenge at the facility, Zungu said, adding that, since 2008, more than 15 senior managers had been charged criminally and suspended.

“I have briefed staff about the plans for the hospital. We have also urged them to come forward with any information about fraud and corruption and to highlight the challenges they are facing.”

Staff were reassured that their efforts in keeping the hospital running, despite the circumstances, were appreciated.

Zungu said she had already started going through the hospital records and was confident of finding out what had happened to the medical stock that had been purchased for the hospital.

“I am physically going through the order books to trace the stocks,” she said. “It could not have vanished into thin air.”

Zungu said accountability was crucial, and the department could not continue to replenish goods that kept on disappearing.

“People are employed to manage the stock. They have a budget and must be able to work with it efficiently.”

She said at the top of her agenda was getting elective surgeries started again. “I do not want patients getting more sick or developing complications while they wait for surgery.”

Added to the theatre troubles, Zungu said correct protocols were not being followed.

Patients are booked for elective surgery three months in advance.

“This is enough time for the wards and theatre staff to ensure they follow all the necessary protocols. They must ensure all the resources required for the surgery are available ahead of time. They must not be looking for sutures, drips, needles and syringes while the patient is being wheeled into theatre.

“The theatre matron and doctors have already given me a list of surgical stocks they require. I have sourced the items and dispatched them to the hospital. Elective surgeries should start today.”

Zungu said she had also discovered that the hospital was overloaded as a result of patients not using facilities in their jurisdiction.

“This is a major problem. We are going to embark on a massive campaign to educate patients about facilities in their areas. This is to ensure this hospital is not overburdened and does not collapse.”

Zungu added that her intervention was part of the Operation Bring Back Order launched by Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo. - Daily News