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July 31, 2014 | Last Updated 3:28 PM
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Comment & Analysis
Guest Column: Gauteng health in crisis - MEC

Ayanda Mkhwanazi

The Gauteng health department has acknowledged that it has serious staff shortfalls and that suppliers have not been paid.

Following a report about newborn babies dying at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital due to negligence by hospital staff, the hospital management have come out and admitted that there is a crisis.

Gauteng health MEC Ntombi Mekgwe said there was a critical shortage of trained theatre nurses working at the maternity ward of the facility.

“Yes, we agree that we generally have a shortage of nurses. At the moment, there are 20 trained specialists in theatre nursing, with an additional five sent by the minister,” Mekgwe said.

“In terms of the shift system in theatre, we have four shifts, each of them with five people per shift. In a normal theatre, you need six. This means on every shift we are short of one nurse.”

The national Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, recently intervened and sent five theatre staff from the military health service to alleviate the nursing shortage at Chris Hani Bara’s maternity section.

Deputy CEO of the hospital Dr Pungie Lingham said that despite the staff shortage, the number of still births at the hospital had remained constant over the past three years.

“The percentages of still births in 2009 against total deaths are 3%, then it went to 2.7% and in 2011 it was 2.8 %.

“Even though there has been a shortage of highly trained specialised nurses, the impact on the number of still births has, if anything, been less.”

Meanwhile, services have been severely disrupted in many Gauteng hospitals as suppliers of services and medical products stopped deliveries due to the inability of the provincial health department to pay for services rendered.

At an urgent meeting this week between senior clinicians and officials of the national Health Department, a consensus was reached that services would be restored.

Concerned doctors said the absence of key tools and equipment was hindering them from providing quality service to the public.

The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) is owed more than R2bn and the facility has resorted to closing down some of their sites in Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Chairperson of the Treatment Action Campaign Nonkosi Khumalo said the closure of the health labs had put the lives of HIV-positive patients at risk.

She said they were ready to take the health department to court should services not be restored.

The NHLS has more than 7000 people on their payroll. CEO Dr Sagie Pillay said morale was low in the organisation and his staff were fearful that they might soon be out of jobs.

He said his priority was reassuring them by word of mouth that retrenchments were not imminent.

Ayanda Mkhwanazi is a radio journalist at Health-e News. This article was first published on the organisation’s website: and is published here with permission





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