DA investigates deaths at Bloemhof Community Health Centre

By Chris Hattingh (MPL), DA Leader in North West Legislature:

The Democratic Alliance in Northwest conducted an onsite investigation at the Bloemhof Community Health Centre on Monday 6 July 2015. The investigation is the result of complaints about the service and care patients receive.

One of the complaints is on the death of Mr Gert Pretorius (66) who died due to suffocation. This happened when he was brought to the centre with extreme shortness of breath and distress. No oxygen was available in the emergency room. His wife, Mrs Carolien Pretorius, is subsequently considering legal action.

During the DA’s visit to the centre, the second one in a month, the radical regression of health care in the province was evident.

The DA’s findings included:

  • The full-time medical doctor who is supposed to work from 7:00 to 16:00 on weekdays is allegedly seldom available and is allegedly managing her own private practice in Mark Street where she attends to medical aid patients.
  • The average waiting time for patients at the centre is approximately 3 hours (according to statistics from March 2015-May 2015 that are displayed on notice boards in the waiting area). Patients are however informed by other notices that the average waiting time is 4 hours.
  • There is a shortage of or, at times, no oxygen available in the emergency room, which might have contributed to the death of Mr. Pretorius.
  • There is no clarity between the health centre and the ambulance service who should take responsibility for the transfer of patients who are referred to other/bigger medical facilities in the province for specialised care. In one instances a man with brain haemorrhage was left waiting for 5 hours to be transferred to Klerksdorp amidst the dispute on his transport.
  • Only two nursing staff members were on duty during the DA’s visit, while more than 20 patients were waiting on medical care. It also seems as if staff absenteeism is another major problem at the centre.
  • Furthermore, only 4 emergency vehicles, with odometer reading of nearly 300 000km are available to service the huge area. The DA is particularly concerned that the N12, a detour from Johannesburg to Cape Town, is running past Bloemhof. It is alarming that these ambulances and this facility have to assist during motor vehicle accidents and during other emergency situations.

The DA will conduct an even more intensive investigation into health services – especially in smaller towns in North West. There seems to be a tendency by the Department of Health to rely on private practitioners to render medical services. The issue will also enjoy priority within the DA portfolio committee in the North West Provincial Legislature.