DA denied access at Mahatma Gandhi Hospital as doctor shortage reaches crisis levels

Issued by Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL – DA KZN Spokesperson on Health
09 Sep 2019 in Press Statements

The Democratic Alliance was today barred access to the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital (MGMH) in Phoenix in order to carry out an oversight inspection following claims of a severe shortage of doctors within the out-patients and casualty departments.

The move comes after numerous complaints from both patients and the surrounding community, in particular when it comes to very long waiting periods at these two units.

The grievances received by the DA include claims, mostly from senior citizens, that they are forced to arrive at the hospital as early as 3am in the hope of receiving treatment the same day. Regrettably, even this does not guarantee them medical treatment as waiting times in these two departments can approach 8-10 hours. The result is that many patients are then told to return the next day.

There have also been complaints that due to the current overcrowding, security guards at the hospital are not able to allow new out-patients into the facility in the mornings as seats were still occupied by the previous day’s patients.

The DA is far from satisfied by this morning’s events. Despite following all the correct steps for oversight inspections, as clarified in parliamentary replies by KZN’s Department of Health (DoH), were still denied access to this facility. Following discussions with the office of the provincial Health HOD, we were informed that we would not be allowed in as KZN Health MEC, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu had not yet approved the visit.

This flies in the face of Section 114(2)(b) of the Constitution which is explicit that Members of the Provincial Legislature may perform oversight inspections at state facilities, including health institutions, and hold the provincial executive accountable.

Mahatma Gandhi has a reputation of being an extremely busy hospital, treating an estimated 18 000 patients monthly. Despite only being a 350-bed hospital, it covers a patient drainage area of approximately 1.5million people.

According to sources within the hospital, the current problems are the result of five doctors having left the Family Medicine Department for training posts. This has left a dire situation with only two doctors available to patients within these two critical areas. The DA is also led to believe that Hospital management has tried to manage the crisis with assistance from other departments. Certainly, this is not a long term solution given that the staffing issue will allegedly only be resolved, at the very earliest, next month.

The DA will today write to MEC Simelane-Zulu to request that she provide further clarity around today’s oversight inspection being denied. We will also call for answers around the doctor shortage. Staffing is not a hospital management competency but a responsibility of the eThekwini health district, provincial management and the MEC.  As such, we will call on her to;

  • Release all qualified doctors from district offices to treat patients in the out-patient department – patient care must come first before administrative duties
  • Temporarily employ private locum GPs to treat patients; and
  • Immediately advertise for the five vacant doctor’s posts at Mahatma Gandhi.

The DA will continue to monitor the situation at this hospital in the interests of the extended community that depends on it for healthcare. We remain committed to the fight to quality health outcomes for all of KwaZulu-Natal’s people.