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Durban - Doctors are threatening to close down operating theatres at one of KwaZulu-Natal's largest hospitals because of a linen shortage, the Mercury newspaper reported.

Doctors at Addington Hospital in Durban said they would do so if the health department did not act to provide clean linen.

The newspaper reported that all provincial hospitals were battling to get clean operating theatre linen because the provincial health department's largest laundry, at Sea Cow Lake in Durban, had broken down.

The report quoted an e-mail from Addington Hospital's systems manager, CH Myeza, to the head of the laundry services, Diane Naidoo, warning of potential litigation.

Naidoo told the newspaper a new state-of-the-art laundry was due to open in December.

Only one of the laundry's three machines was operating, and linen was being dumped and burned, according to the report.

The laundry serves 12 hospitals and nine clinics.

The health department said it would comment later on Monday.

Democratic Alliance provincial health spokesman Makhosazana

Mdlalose said in a statement that the health department needed to explain.

“Failure to maintain the washing machines impacts directly on the level of patient care. How must hospital staff provide proper care when there is no linen on beds, no gowns for theatre staff, and a lack of other critical linen supplies?” he asked.

“These are basic requirements and the question must be asked - how can the department shut down maintenance simply because the laundry is moving?” - Sapa