Professor ZK Matthews Hospital staff have had enough of failed promises by the Department of Health to deliver basic necessities to treat patients while purchasing a flat-screen television worth more than R300 000. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Kimberley - One of the 25 flat-screen televisions - which were procured by the Northern Cape Department of Health at a cost of R11 million - is standing unused in a corner of a room at the Professor ZK Matthews Hospital in Barkly West.

Hospital staff, who embarked on a strike on Tuesday, said that they had no idea why a brand-new television set had been delivered to the hospital in March when the money could be better used in purchasing much-needed supplies and basic necessities.

A “skeleton staff” is manning the hospital, which was left near empty after all patients, including maternity and casualty patients, were transported to Kimberley for medical treatment.

Only four admitted patients, who are in a stable condition, are currently being cared for at Professor ZK Matthews Hospital.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) reported that the Northern Cape Department of Health had purchased 25 flat-screen televisions at a cost of R11 million, where some of the televisions were being stored at the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley while others had been sent to the districts, although they were not operational.

Nehawu shop steward Kgalalelo Maketlo said that a flat-screen television, which the union claims cost over R300 000, is being stored in the occupational therapy room in Barkly West and had never been switched on.

Picture: Soraya Crowie

“We do not know what the television is supposed to be used for. This is while the hospital has no equipment and medication and there is a severe shortage of doctors and nurses,” said Maketlo yesterday.

“There are no curtains at the hospital and patients have no privacy. The windows are taped down because they are not working. General workers double up as kitchen staff to cook food for the patients, while nurses are expected to clean, on top of caring for patients, once the cleaners have finished their shifts.”

Maketlo said that a list of grievances sent through to the Department of Health earlier this year had never been addressed.

“There are only five doctors at the hospital, where there were previously nine. We want to work but we do not have the resources. There are no gloves or uniforms, there is a shortage of bedding and patients are expected to lie on wet mattresses. Emergency medical services personnel were told to wear jeans and sneakers if their allocated trousers and boots have become worn. The community service nurse is working without supervision and is expected to supervise two assistant nurses.”

Picture: Soraya Crowie

She added that general workers were forced to transport bodies to the mortuary, after dark, due to a shortage of staff.

“We will continue with a shutdown of the hospital until the MEC for Health, the HOD for Health and the premier visit the hospital.

“The drains are continually blocked and raw sewage is pushing up in the gutters, outside the kitchen. There is also no hot water, as the geyser is out of order. While a photocopier machine has been provided, there is no paper or toner.”

Maketlo said that security staff were being used as drivers to transport nurses to the clinics.

“Security guards are kept away from their posts to be drivers, while the hospital is left without security.

Administrative staff want their reception area to be partitioned off from the public, as they do not feel safe and stated that they were at risk of contracting TB.

Nehawu deputy regional chairperson Isaac Shuping demanded that workers receive notch increases and that Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers be permanently employed on level 3. “We cannot have workers going on pension on level 3.

“We were informed that the MEC for Health is in Loeriesfontein and cannot come to Barkly West this week. The shutdown of the hospital will continue until she addresses our issues. She is not taking us seriously. Workers are being accused of being lazy and not doing their work, while they are not given access to the tools of the trade.

“The Department of Health is failing us. We have patiently waited since February for an answer ... the national general elections have come and gone and we are still waiting.”

A municipal by-election is being held in Loeriesfontein today in the Hantam district.

Shuping stated that they would also request the Department of Labour to inspect the hospital as the roof is “clipped on”.

“The roof could blow off with the strong August winds. This hospital is a ticking time bomb. What will happen if patients and workers are injured, if the roof blows away?”

He added that staff felt unsafe in the workplace after a patient was recently raped by another patient inside the hospital.

“The incident is being swept under the carpet, while it appears as if the safety and security of patients and workers is not receiving any priority.

“We are asking for simple items such as uniforms and gloves that can be purchased with petty cash money. They must not come to us with stories of tenders.”

The spokesperson for the MEC for the Department of Health, Lebogang Majaha, said the MEC had agreed to meet with staff at Professor ZK Matthews Hospital on Monday.

“Staff agreed to go back to their posts. The MEC is conducting district visits this week and will only be able to go to Barky West next week.”

No response was received to media enquiries relating to the televisions.

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