Forensic: Public health facilities ailing – Public Protector

The provision of health services at selected hospitals in Gauteng, Limpopo, KZN and Mpumalanga do not meet the obligations imposed by the Constitution and the law. This is one of the findings contained in four reports issued by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane after visits by her officials to a number of hospitals in August last year, reports TimesLIVE. Mkhwebane and deputy Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka, accompanied by a team of investigators, visited more than a dozen hospitals in five provinces to conduct inspections at the facilities. During those visits, they identified a variety of shortcomings, including poor physical infrastructure, staff shortages and unavailability of equipment.

The aim of the inspection was to assess how the facilities coped with the demand for services. They also looked into the general conditions at the facilities. On Friday, the Public Protector issued reports in respect of conditions in those hospitals. The report for the Eastern Cape had been issued earlier. The KZN hospitals are Christ the King District Hospital in Ixopo, Rietvlei Hospital in uMzimkhulu, Mbongolwane District Hospital in Eshowe, and KwaMagwaza District Hospital in Melmoth. Another report deals with findings concerning the WF Knobel Hospital in Polokwane, Limpopo. There is also a report on the conditions at Themba Hospital in Kabokweni in Mpumalanga.

The Gauteng report found there were administrative deficiencies at the provincial Department of Health that led to systemic challenges in the delivery of primary healthcare services at all six hospitals. Investigators found that at Dr George Mukhari Hospital there were delays in the procurement of medical equipment which was requested more than three years ago. ‘Baragwanath Hospital has human resources capacity constraint challenges and, as a result, cannot handle the influx of patients at the hospital, which is said to be a historical challenge,’ Gcaleka said. The TimesLIVE report notes at Lillian Ngoyi Community Health Centre, evidence obtained revealed systemic deficiencies such as a lack of hot water in the labour ward. However, new geysers and heaters have since been installed at the facility after the intervention of the Public Protector. At Themba Hospital in Kabokweni, investigations revealed a maternity ward in a deplorable state where patients' rights were violated. Mkhwebane has instructed each hospital to address the specific problems they face. She has also instructed the heads of provincial health and public works departments to address the identified problems.

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