’Who do we speak to about the desperate situation in KZN hospitals?’
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By Marlan Padayachee
‘’I have fuel for only two working days. Who do we speak to tell them about this desperate situation where hospitals have no bread, milk or oxygen supplies after the mayhem of senseless looting, violence and rioting.’’
This is the desperate situation Dr Letasha Kalideen, a specialist physician, and the health services sector in KwaZulu-Natal find themselves in after days of looting, rioting and burning of factories and warehouses. Bread, milk, linen, basic necessities and oxygen, among others, is in short supply.
The razing of several warehouses in the Riverhouse Valley came close to destroying oxygen suppliers Afrox, which is under tremendous supply and demand pressures.
Also, Durban’s largest inner-city regional RK Khan Hospital is operating at a 30% staff capacity and huge shortages of food, drinks and essential health products, Reverend Cyril Pillay, chairman of the board, told IOL.
Pillay said he had been informed by the RK Khan Hospital’s CEO, Dr Linda Sobukwa, that the state hospital was ‘’under severe pressure and in a tight squeeze’’ over food supplies, linen and cleaning services.
‘’The hospital is in a real tight squeeze, a very tragic scenario of staff shortages, no food and water. Fortunately Pick n Pay supermarket has provided some foodstuff for the patients, many victims of the Covid-19 pandemic.
’’The laundry service has been severely disrupted, no clean linen, dirty dishes are piling up and lack of cleaning services poses unhygienic and health hazard conditions,’’ said Pillay, who has appealed to the ANC MEC for Health Nomagugu Simelane for aid and assistance.
Desperate doctors and nurses said both in- and out-patients were desperately sending them text messages via WhatsApp of their Catch-22 situation on being left without chronic medicines.
Many telephoned doctors to inform them they were unable to receive medicines via deliveries from the pharmacies or collect medications as a result of the city-wide blockade and policing of roads across the volatile region.
St Augustine’s Hospital has informed doctors, nurses, staffers, service providers and patients of the dire consequences of the chaos brought about by the widespread looting.
Dr Monica Vaithilingam, a specialist paediatrician, said she did not know how she would go to her consulting rooms to attend to her patients – many of her child patients have run out of chronic medicines – and the dilemma of getting back to her home amidst the dangers.
Heinrich Venter, general manager at the Netcare Hospitals Group and St Augustine Hospital, said: ‘’In the light of recent protests… be assured that we will continue to provide with the best care possible in the circumstances, although we are at present experiencing some challenges with deliveries and staff transport to our facility that are beyond our control.’’
On nursing care, Venter added: ‘’You may at times experience a delayed response as many of our staff have been unable to get to work; and our menu selection is at present limited … meals may be delayed, and on linen …we make use of an off-site service provider and deliveries are unfortunately not guaranteed.’’
Doctors at the Mahatma Gandhi Hospital in Phoenix said the hospital was also under pressure from the consequences of the rioting around the Inanda-Newtown-Kwa Mashu cluster of poor communities.