Durban - The Department of Health’s biggest laundry in Durban remains in chaos despite Health MEC Sbongiseni Dhlomo’s promise that washing machines would be repaired so linen could be sent back to hospitals as quickly as possible.

When The Mercury visited the Coastal Regional Laundry in Sea Cow Lake last week, rotting linen was piled high.

Workers said they had not been told when the two large washing machines that were broken would be fixed. They said their pleas to have the machines repaired had fallen on deaf ears.

Two months ago, The Mercury established that hospital linen was being incinerated as it was rotting before it could be washed at the provincial hospital laundry where equipment was not working.

Last week, The Mercury sent questions to the department to find out why the problem had not been addressed.

Spokeswoman Sebe Zwane, who confirmed receiving the questions, said:

“My hands are tied, I cannot respond to your questions. It is a long process for the department to issue a response. It needs to be signed by the head of the laundry service and the department’s head before we release it.

“Right now the head of laundry service is not available to sign it.”

The workers at the laundry are also frustrated.

“Even this [big] machine often breaks down, leaving us with small machines, which are not coping with the workload.

“Engineers keep coming to repair them, but when they leave, they are still broken,” said a worker.

Transporting linen to and from provincial hospitals is also a problem, because trucks are not working and are not repaired immediately.

“This is all because the management at the laundry has not got the experience or willingness to take this job seriously,” said another laundry worker.

“We need a new manager to come and fix things because we cannot operate like this.”

The laundry problems have led to serious linen shortages in 12 government hospitals, nine clinics and mortuaries.

The workers said officials from the hospitals regularly complained about the shortages.

“Last week, officials from King George V Hospital [in Sydenham] came to the laundry to demand their linen. Our managers are absent from work or they just sit in their offices and do nothing,” said the employee.

Another worker said the night staff did nothing.

“When the day shift staff report for duty no linen has been washed,” he said. - The Mercury