Cape Town—It is “patently obvious” that the rights of patients in state hospitals are not being respected and that urgent action is needed, the Democratic Alliance said on Wednesday.
DA MP and health spokesperson Dianne Kohler-Barnard released a damning report on the country’s “five worst hospitals” during a news conference at parliament—citing a litany of staff shortages, disrepair and filth, and poor health care provision at the Rob Ferreira Hospital in Mpumalanga, Umtata General and Cecilia Makiwane in the Eastern Cape, Natalspruit in Gauteng, and Mahatma Gandhi Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal.
“The 27 million South Africans who depend on the public health service are frequently unable to access an acceptable level of health care,” Kohler-Barnard said.
Grime, rubbish, vermin
“At the worst hospitals, patient must spend hours waiting just for a file, bring their own linen, stay in wards infested with vermin and reeking of human waste, and often share beds with other patients.
“Hospital buildings are infested with grime, rubbish and vermin.
In these conditions, it is patently obvious that the rights of patients are not being respected and that urgent action is required.”
The DA’s investigation into conditions in the public health care sector “clearly showed” that health care was deteriorating on a broad front.
By highlighting a few of the worst example, the DA was demonstrating that government’s hospitalisation revitalisation plans were failing, and that a thorough review of the effectiveness of existing policies was needed, she said.
It was particularly alarming that the problems faced by the hospitals had been raised repeatedly by hospital staff, politicians, trade unions, and journalists over many years.
“While many promises have been made, there is little evidence of their fulfilment,” Kohler-Barnard said.
The DA intended to make a dedicated effort to ensure action was taken and the problems addressed to improve conditions.
Doctors operate by torchlight
“The buck stops with Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. It is her job to provide health care to South Africans.”
Kohler-Barnard said at some hospitals 67% of doctors’ posts were vacant, doctors had been forced to operate by torchlight, and nurses were expected to keep intensive care patients alive by manually pumping air into their lungs during the many power cuts.
Patients’ files were jumbled on the floor, unused beds lined most corridors and were abandoned in the grounds along with numerous wheelchairs, paint was peeling on walls, almost all the floor tiles were missing, and cats, rats, mice, and cockroach infestations were evident.
The stench of human waste permeated, washing and toilet facilities were filthy, and in some hospitals sewage ran on floors, she said.