Dirty Laundry Crisis for KZN Hospitals

Makhosazana Mdlalose, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health

KWAZULU-NATAL’s Health Department must explain why the supply of clean linen to several hospitals in the province has virtually ground to a halt, with dirty laundry either being dumped or burned.

According to a media report, only one out of three “tunnel washing machines” is in operation at the Durban and Coastal laundry, which provides a service to 12 hospitals and nine clinics. This is despite complaints by hospitals for several months.

The department’s excuse is that the machines have not been repaired or serviced as the laundry is due to move to a new base at Prince Mshiyeni Hospital in Umlazi in December 2012, where there will be “new state-of-the-art” equipment.

The question is – what happens in the interim? If these machines are beyond repair, surely the service should be contracted out in the meantime?

Failure to maintain the washing machines impacts directly on the level of patient care. How must hospital staff provide proper care when there is no linen on beds, no gowns for theatre staff and a lack of other critical linen supplies? These are basic requirements and the question must be asked – how can the department shut down maintenance simply because the laundry is moving?

This debacle again raises the issue of capacity within KZN’s Health Department and whether there is in fact a co-ordinated plan. Clearly there has a complete lack of adequate planning with little thought given to the consequences should this service not be fully operational.

The DA will be calling for answers from senior department officials. Not only do we expect them to explain to us how this has been allowed to happen – they must also answer to the millions of people of this province who are reliant on government hospitals for basic health care.

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