The DA appointed the health ombudsman, prof. Taole Mokoena, as well as asked the Human Rights Commission (HRC) to investigate what the party describes as “dangerous conditions” at the Witbank Hospital in Mpumalanga.
Last week, the DA made an overview visit to the hospital just a few weeks after the party rushed to the aid of a pregnant woman at the hospital.
Cindy Steyn was 22 weeks pregnant at that stage when her appendix burst while she was waiting for an appointment at the Witbank provincial hospital. After waiting for hours, her appendix was removed and she was admitted to the surgical unit where she was apparently subjected to neglect and abuse, says Michele Clark, the DA’s spokesperson on health.
Had it not been for Steyn’s partner, Pierre Botha, who called on her for help, Steyn might not have survived, says Clarke.
After she was discharged, Steyn was told to visit the local clinic every other day for wound care. However, her wounds became infected and septic and she was referred back to the hospital where treatment was initially refused, says Clark.
The situation was brought to her attention and Clark called dr. Nicholas Crisp, Deputy Director General of Health, approached. At his behest, the Witbank Hospital finally “deigned” to treat Steyn, says Clark.
A few weeks later, Steyn started experiencing severe cramps and was rushed to the hospital. The hospital initially refused to perform a caesarean section, even though a nurse familiar with her condition warned that Steyn would not be able to give birth any other way.
Steyn has since been discharged and must visit the hospital for wound care, but according to Clark she was given none of the required antibiotics to prevent the possible return of the infection. Apparently there was no stock at the hospital.
The DA visited the hospital earlier, but says since then nothing has been done regarding the shortage of beds, staff, supplies and medicines, as well as problems with maintenance and broken equipment that lead to an unsafe and unhygienic facility.
“The mismanagement of available space to maintain necessary health services is just another of the systemic failures that put patients’ lives at unnecessary risk,” says Clark.
“Unfortunately, Cindy’s experience is one of many seen in public health care systems nationwide, which are in shambles due to the same mismanagement and lack of care that is the hallmark of public health care.”
Clark says hospitals should be places of safety and peace, where patients receive quality care.
“Unfortunately, many people who are submitted to public health care fear for their lives – and do not know if they will leave the hospital sicker than they entered. Unless the systemic ineptitude, callousness and mismanagement are completely eradicated, the public healthcare sector will continue to crumble.”
She says it is a “tragedy” that the ANC continues to present the National Health Insurance (NHI) as a magic solution to the problems, while the party knows very well that it is doomed to failure because the party refuses to do those things that can really turn the situation around , to implement.