The Democratic Alliance (DA) is extremely concerned by reports from staff and patients at Phoenix-based Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital (MGMH), who claim that the facility’s Covid-19 dedicated ward is currently so overwhelmed that safety regulations are being flouted.
MGMH is a major hospital which services various densely populated areas north of Durban. According to reports, while the hospital has a dedicated Covid-19 ward – Ward 9 – it is currently over-subscribed, with the result that patients’ beds are being placed closer together than regulations allow for. This due to additional beds being brought in.
The DA has been reliably informed that a similar situation exists in the Medical Out-Patients Department, which acts as the isolation ward. There are also concerns around whether there are adequate ventilators to meet the needs of patients.
There have also been major concerns expressed that patients without Covid-19 are not receiving proper care. According to staff members, the hospital was facing severe staff shortages even before the pandemic. The virus has now exacerbated the situation, particularly when nursing staff test positive and an entire shift has to test and self-quarantine.
Then there are the earlier staff complaints regarding Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the lack of cooperation and effort by hospital management to respond to the issues raised. This is having a major impact on patient care and staff morale.
It is clear that the current situation at MGMH cannot be ignored. During the Legislature’s recent Health Functionality Visits, MPLs were shown state-of-the-art facilities at both the Clairwood and Pixley ka Seme Hospitals. Yet, here is MGMH – not even 10km away from the latter – which is completely overwhelmed.
This shows a lack of lack of coordination by the KZN Department of Health (DoH) when it comes to hospital bed allocation within eThekwini District. Despite this, my question to the Department during this weeks’ KZN Health portfolio committee meeting, regarding the coordination process, was left unanswered.
The DA has now submitted official parliamentary questions in order to obtain this information. I have also submitted all the issues raised at MGMH to DoH Head of Department, Dr Sandile Tshabalala, and MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu to investigate and rectify the situation. The last thing that patients and communities receiving services at this hospital need is a staff strike due to working conditions. It will result in lives lost and is ultimately preventable.
The country’s hard lockdown was to allow time for our health system to prepare for the coming Covid-19 peak. With KZN now entering this surge, the DA remains committed to ensuring that all the preparation and protocols promised by government are enforced in order to save patient’s lives and ensure the safety of our healthcare workers.