Frustrated Khayelitsha residents say the continued provision of poor services at the district hospital leaves patients having to seek medical attention elsewhere. Picture:Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Frustrated Khayelitsha residents say poor service at their local hospital is driving them to seek help elsewhere.

The hospital opened its doors to the public a little over six years ago.

The facility caters to residents of Khayelitsha, Mfuleni and surrounding areas.

Reports of patients having to wait overnight to see a doctor, sleeping on chairs due to shortages of beds, and staff shortages form part of a slew of challenges at the facility.

Known as one of the busiest trauma units in the province, the hospital, which was built to alleviate pressure on other facilities, now sees residents going elsewhere because they no longer trust that they will receive care when they need it.

Khanyiso Gudla, 34, said she had on two occasions left the hospital with family members, not having received medical care.

“I went to the hospital last week with my sick father, he is 78-years-old and has heart problems and had been having chest pains all day. We went to the emergency room and we waited for over five hours without being seen by a doctor. I eventually had to leave him there at around midnight because my children were alone at night,” she said.

“But when I went back the following day he was still in the waiting room, with no one having even checked his blood pressure or given him a glass of water.

“We had to hire a car to take him elsewhere because he kept getting pushed to the back of the line because there was apparently only one doctor working in the emergency area.

“Last year I also had to leave here with my son after he had fallen and broken his arm and we had also sat there for hours being told that there were people sicker than my son. People sleep on the floor here because there are not enough beds.”

Ward councillor in the area, Patrick Mngxunyeni, said community members had beencomplaining about the hospital a for a long time but it had taken no action. Mngxunyeni said a parliamentary committee made an unannounced visit to the hospital last month and found we needed to improve the quality of services provided.

The hospital opened as a 240-bed facility. An additional 60 beds added over time have done little to alleviate the pressure, was especially intense at weekends or at month end.

The chair of the Khayelitsha health forum, Mzanywa Ndibongo, said challenges at the facility range from staff shortages to lack of communication with patients.

“You do find incidents where people wait for long periods of time before they are seen to by doctors and what makes it worse is when they are not told why there is a delay,” he said. The hospital queues are especially long over the weekends because of high volumes of crime in the community. Patients who are most in need of help are pushed to the front of the queue. Department of Health spokesperson, Sithembiso Magubane said the hospital, which serves Khayelitsha and surrounding area was under pressure due to the large volume of clients accessing the facility.

“The Western Cape Department of Health is focusing on improving patient satisfaction, reducing patient waiting times, alleviating bed pressure in the emergency centre and increasing the nursing staff component to manage the burden of disease and fill all vacancies,” he said.

“We are also expanding the package of care for outpatients and educating patients on how to access our services correctly by using their primary health care facilities in order to reduce service pressure and waiting times in the emergency unit.”

Magubane said Western Cape Health is training clinical, nursing and rehabilitation staff to improve competency.

Weekend Argus