Jack Bloom MPL
DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health
Long hospital queues are an unfortunate feature of most Gauteng public hospitals.
Patients suffer in silence, unheard and sometimes fearful. Last week, security guards at the Mamelodi Hospital assaulted a man who took a photograph of his ill mother after she had waited for attention at casualty for 15 hours.
The benchmark waiting time set by the Gauteng Health Department is 360 minutes (6 hours). This means that the department is happy that a patient who is first seen by a doctor or nurse and then gets medicine from the pharmacy will spend a total of six hours waiting in queues.
According to the department’s First Quarterly report, 20 out of 26 hospitals met this low standard.
Many patients will say it is far worse than this. Some patients arrive as early as 2 am in the morning so as to be first in the queue for medicines, and others have to come back the next day.
It’s not just a matter of inconvenience, as people lose income if they take off work, and can even be fired.
The most serious situation is at Casualty, where people can die if not seen timeously.
I have been receiving increasing reports of seriously ill people waiting for hours at Casualty before they are seen by a doctor or admitted to a ward. Last week it was reported that 50-year old Elizabeth Serumula died sleeping on the floor in the admission ward with a drip attached after waiting three days to get a bed at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.
In another shocking case last week, a 37-year old mother of three died at the Tembisa Hospital after waiting two days to get into a bed in a ward. She spent a night sleeping on the floor at the casualty, and only got a bed after I phoned the hospital CEO.
My colleague Refiloe Nt’sekhe MPL and I visited the Casualty at Tembisa Hospital, and heard stories about patients sleeping there overnight in chairs or on the floor because of a shortage of beds. A nurse told us that patients sometimes die there while waiting for admission.
This is an intolerable situation. We need to increase public pressure for change by highlighting the problem of long queues and demanding change.
Poor management and attitudes can be changed first as this does not cost money, followed by extra resources where needed.
Paper files are a major cause of delay, taking time to retrieve or getting lost. Electronic systems must be introduced at all hospitals as soon as possible.
The DA has set up a “Hospital Queue” Facebook page where people can post stories and pictures. There is also a @HospitalQueue twitter account.
People must speak up and demand good service. They must use the complaints desks at hospitals or phone the complaints hotline at 0800 203 886.
Please also contact me at Tel: 082 333 4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell us your stories so that we can start an unstoppable movement to shorten hospital queues and save lives.