Health MEC Must Address Staff Shortages At Matibidi Hospital

James Masango MPL

Mpumalanga Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition.

Mpumalanga MEC for health Dr Clifford Mkasi must put his money where his mouth is and start filling vacancies for essential health personnel in the province’s hospitals and clinics.

Yesterday I paid a visit to the Matibidi District Hospital (approximately 55 kilometres north of Graskop) and found a 100-bed hospital desperately in need of professionals to serve the health needs of over 20 000 people in the area. In fact, the hospital only uses 50 beds due to the shortages.

Currently the hospital is staffed with 4 doctors, 17 nurses, eight staff nurses and 27 auxiliary nurses, who are divided into four 12-hour shifts, leaving one doctor, 4 nurses, 2 staff nurses and 6 auxiliary nurses per shift. With no surgeons on staff, patients have to be referred to Sabie or Mapulaneng hospitals, over 80 and 110 kilometres away, respectively. With no ambulances on hand, patient transport has to be sent from Mpumalanga EMS in Bourke’s Luck.

The hospital has been without a qualified pharmacist since March, and attempts to recruit new pharmacists have failed as the health department has not managed to recruit someone prepared to work in this deep rural area. This failure has forced the hospital’s administration to defy legislation and have a pharmaceutical assistant dispense medicine to patients – or be forced to refer them elsewhere to receive medication.

Even more distressing is the fact that there is no mortuary assistant, forcing nursing personnel to take over those functions until the remains have been handed over to the deceased’s next of kin.

Administratively the hospital is without CEO, and has been so since March. The DA has also been informed that the matron, who is acting CEO, will be retiring at the end of October, and we are highly concerned that the department has not pursued an aggressive recruitment campaign to fill this, and many other posts.

The DA will submit formal written parliamentary questions to MEC Mkasi and ask him to explain whether the department will be recruiting key personnel such as a CEO, matron, nurses, a pharmacist and mortuary assistant, as well as to provide us with its plans to increase the nursing capacity at the hospital.

MEC Mkasi’s increasing ignorance of the health care situation in Mpumalanga shows just how out of touch he is with the people of the province. His refusal to act stands in stark contrast to his oath as medical doctor to ease suffering and bring relief wherever he may go.

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