This is the state of Durban's public hospitals

By Wendy Jasson da Costa Time of article published Apr 14, 2019

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Durban - Clean equipment, professional assistance and safety are some of the basic expectations when visiting a healthcare facility. 

However, a recent trip to Wentworth Hospital turned sour for an 80-year-old man when the only wheelchair available was covered in blood and attempts to get help from the security guard and nursing staff were unsuccessful.

Relatives of the diabetic patient, who was delirious with pain and fever from a severe kidney infection, could not carry him into the hospital and eventually he was taken back home.

The Sunday Tribune was there when it happened and took pictures of the bloody wheelchair. This week we returned to Wentworth Hospital and visited three of Durban’s other hospitals to see what patients deal with every day.

At Wentworth, the only available wheelchair we could find was pushed by a nurse who said she was going to use it as a trolley for hospital equipment. However, even that wheelchair was a safety hazard as it was held together by a bandage.

At Addington, a huge bag of dirt was parked at the entrance of the toilet for wheelchair users. Some of it looked like medical waste.

At Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital, a pop into the woman’s toilet ended in embarrassment as one of the cubicles didn’t have a door and users had to relieve themselves in full view of everyone else in the toilet.

The same toilet had a leaking pipe and blankets were piled around it to soak up the water when the toilet was flushed. At another basin, the water ran non-stop.

Blankets and buckets were spotted in the area close to the dispensary in King Edward Hospital.

A security guard said the roof leaked and that the blankets and buckets were the only way they could keep the floor dry when it rained.

Approached for comment, the KZN Department of Health accused the Sunday Tribune of using a “few isolated cases to sensationalise and exaggerate the situation” in public hospitals.

Spokesperson Ncumisa Mafunda said: “The department notes with concern the newspaper’s unauthorised entry into several public health facilities, which is contrary to the established procedure that regulates the functioning of media practitioners within public health facilities.”

She said the public health system tended to a large number of people every day which placed a strain on their budget.

But overall, she said, the hospitals were run by dedicated managers and staff who punched “way above their weight, rendering healthcare and performing miracles on a daily basis under trying circumstances.”

Over the past few months, the province’s ailing healthcare system has been in the spotlight following complaints about monkey-infested wards, the death of a baby which hospitals refused to treat and a shortage of oncology drugs.

The department’s response to our pictures:


The department said Prince Mshiyeni received 42 new wheelchairs last week. The chief executive, who was appointed in January after the 16-month absence of a head, had begun to address a number of administrative challenges at the facility.

A budget of R7million was allocated in the new financial year to renovate all ablution facilities at the hospital.


When the photograph was taken, hospital management had not been made aware that a single wheelchair had blood stains that needed to be removed.

“The department wishes to apologise to any patient or member of the public who has encountered difficulty finding a wheelchair. In such instances, those who are unable to locate a wheelchair are urged to approach the nearest hospital security guard or healthcare worker, who is duty-bound to assist them.”


A storm in October 2017 caused damage at King Edward VIII Hospital. Most of the repair work, which cost R100m, has been completed. For an old facility such as this, it is not surprising that certain parts of the roof leak.


The tied up garbage bag that was photographed was waiting to be picked up and disposed of, which is done three times per day. In no way did it affect access to the toilets near the X-Ray department.

Sunday Tribune

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