Four Durban public hospitals -Prince Mshiyeni Memorial, Mahatma Gandhi, Addington and King Edward VIII – are ailing, with some critical management positions occupied by people with no relevant qualifications.
This was revealed in a damning report by a Ministerial Task Team which was set up by Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi to investigate these facilities last year.
The assessment on the hospitals was done from December 13-15.
One of the team members was Professor Ronald Green-Thompson.
The team was sent to assess the “unacceptable conditions”, “incompetent management”, “lack of service delivery” and “poor quality of care” at the facilities.
This is the second time this year that the department has been found wanting.
In the middle of the year the SA Human Rights Commission found that the KwaZulu-Natal Health Department had deprived patients of adequate health care after its investigation into the oncology crisis.
During the walk around the facilities by the team in December, the maternity unit at Prince Mshiyeni was found to be a dark and “somewhat depressing area” in need of maintenance.
The staff, however, impressed the team with their enthusiasm.
Seven babies died at the facility last year while being delivered.
At Mahatma Gandhi, the team found doctors’ rooms with unchanged bed linen, dirty crockery and overflowing rubbish bins. Because of the water shortage, the toilets were unable to be flushed and contained foul-smelling sewage.
At King Edward VIII, equipment repairs and replacement was a “protracted” exercise leading to patients being referred to another hospital.
The management team, according to the report, had limited skills and capacity.
The unnamed hospital finance manager had a “weak personality” and was not in control of staff. The systems manager, also unnamed, failed to deal with routine basic issues, such as leaking toilets.
The roof of the theatre complex had leaked repeatedly and, as a result, the ceiling in some of the operating theatres was deteriorating with flaking paint creating a risk for patients having surgery.
Lack of minor maintenance in the theatre complex was evident with doors off their runners and handles broken.
The worst experience was a visit to a surgical ward on the fifth floor of an ageing building, where the team was informed that the lifts were regularly out of service which made it necessary to have patients carried up the stairs.
“However, the stench of bird droppings and urine that was apparent at the entrance to the ward was overpowering and unbelievable, considering that this is a building housing patients who have undergone recent surgical procedures.
“Both the male and female wards were overcrowded, completely lacking in privacy for patients, with ablution facilities that were totally inadequate for the number of patients and in a shocking state of disrepair.
“This building shows visible signs of deterioration with areas of roofing that have fallen from the building and blackened areas which the team was informed were as a result of a fire in the building a year ago,” reads the report.
The report described Addington Hospital’s management as “severe management churn”.
The human resource manager was a lawyer and her strength was labour relations but she was “weak” with regard to interpersonal relations.
The finance manager was previously from public works and lacked understanding of the health environment.
The definition of critical posts needed to be revised since a lack of cleaners for the operating theatres would affect infection control.
The hospital also had inadequate fire safety equipment.
The team recommended that budget allocation for the four hospitals be reviewed .
The appointment of critical staff – outside the current limitations of only professional nurses and medical doctors – should be allowed. The infrastructural and maintenance issues at the hospitals should be prioritised.
Attempts to get comment from the premier’s office and the KZN Health Department were unsuccessful.
Motsoaledi said he had tabled the recommendations to Parliament’s portfolio committee and to Premier Willies Mchunu.
The DA’s spokesperson for health, Dr Imran Keeka, said: “There has to be a skills audit of all senior staff in key positions To ensure progress, the dead wood pulling the department down must be removed. This must include the health MEC.”