Issued by Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa, 8 June 2017, polity.org.za.
The Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) is outraged by reports stating that patients at Pholosong Hospital, in Ekurhuleni, East Rand region of Gauteng, are receiving medical treatment while lying on the floor due to overcrowding.
Citing recent reports from its members, the Union highlights poor health care standards, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) contraventions and shortage of staff at the hospital. The Union is calling on the Department of Labour (DoL) and the Department of Health (DoH) to intervene.
According to reports Pholosong Hospital has reached new lows whereby the hospital experiences overcrowding of patients forcing some of them to receive medical attention while lying on the floor. Other patients spend many weeks sleeping on strechers in the hospital’s corridors while waiting to be admitted into the wards. It is estimated that the hospital services a population of +/- 1 million people living in Tsakane, Duduza, KwaThema and other surrounding areas. The population growth in the area and the alleged mismanagement by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) are cited to be the contributing factors to the overcrowding.
“It is inhumane to subject patients to such dismal conditions,” said Hospersa Occupational Health and Safety spokesperson, Fazeela Fayers. “We strongly condemn the overcrowding at Pholosong Hospital which has compromised the delivery of efficient health care. We have written to the hospital’s CEO demanding answers yet his office has ignored our request to meet,” said Fayers.
Hospersa also cites reports that the overcrowding in the wards has led to mentally-ill patients sharing wards with physically-ill patients. The nurses working in these wards have no psychiatric training and this has led to many violent incidents where employees and physically-ill patients get attacked by the mentally-ill patients. The most recent incident involved a security guard who was bitten on the arm while trying to protect a nurse from being attacked by a mentally-ill patient. Due to the fact that the security function is outsourced by the hospital, the security guard has reportedly been forced to take unpaid sick leave in order to recover from a severe septicaemia injury on his arm.
“The Department of Health (DoH) should be taken to task for the inadequate conditions that mentally-ill patients at the hospital are subjected to as well as the poor working conditions our members work under,” argued Fayers. “Pholosong Hospital does not have the capacity nor the infrastructure to provide adequate health care to mentally-ill patients. The hospital is only authorised to conduct a 72-hour assessment yet it fails to abide by the policy guidelines on 72-hour assessment of involuntary mental health care users. The lengthy stay of mentally-ill patients at the hospial deprives them of the adequate health care they deserve and also puts our members’ lives in danger as they have not undergone the training required,” added Fayers.
Hospersa has also learned that there are gross violations of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and poor health care standards at the hospital. Areas of the hospital have deteriorated whereby cracks on the ceiling can be seen, doors are falling down and some ablution facilities are not working. According to reports, the hospital often runs out of basic medication like cough mixture and eye drops, forcing the hospital to borrow medication from the neighbouring hospital. Food for the patients is also a scarcity whereby the hospital often runs out of meat due to unpaid invoices and unsuitable storage facilities which has previously lead to the contamination of meat.
“The gross OHS violations at Pholosong Hospital are common characteristics of what has become of our public health institutions. Buildings are been left to deteriorate while poor management and corruption continues to thrive, depriving efficient health care to the most vulnerable,” said Fayers.
Further reports have criticised the hospital’s cleanliness citing it to be unhygienic. It is also reported that the cleaning staff is requested to abandon their cleaning duties twice a day in order to collect and distribute food to patients in the wards. According to the cleaning staff, they have constantly asked management to employ additional people to carry out this task as it compromises their core responsibility in the hospital. This request has fallen on deaf ears.
“Forcing the cleaning staff to handle food just moments after handling cleaning solutions poses a health risk to patients receiving that food,” argued Fayers. “The hospital’s management needs to address this shortage of staff in order for the cleaning staff to focus solely on improving the hygiene standards of the hospital,” she added.
“We have also heard of nepotism that involves the appointment of a retired nurse in a senior position. It is alleged that this senior official victimises employees and threatens them with dismissal should they voice out their concerns,” said Fayers. “Hospersa is angered by these reports. We will call on the DoH to investigate and ensure that those found to be abusing their positions are called to book,” she added.
“Hospersa will continue to highlight all OHS issues affecting health care workers in the workplace and will remain advocates for social justice on service delivery in public health institutions. We condemn the gross OHS violations taking place at Pholosong Hospital and we will not rest until all our members’ concerns are put to bed,” concluded Fayers.