Health-e (Cape Town)

16 November 2012

South Africa: Girl Dies While Nurses Try to Find a Bed

Bethlehem — A 5-year-old girls died in the casualty ward at Phekolong Hospital in Bethlehem this week while nurses scurried around trying to find a bed for her in the casualty ward.

Nurses and patients have been complaining for several months about the poor service at the hospital’s casualty ward, which appears to be linked to poor management of nurses’ time.

Patients have told OurHealth that they wait long before they are attended to while nursing staff are complaining that they are short of staff, but despite this fact they are required to go to long meetings instead of attending to emergencies in the busy casualty ward.

There are also not enough beds to accommodate the patients in casualty.

A nurse who works in the casualty ward, and who asked to remain anonymous, said that hospital management required of nurses to attend meetings, which are often not critical, leaving only two nurses to man the ward.

“On some days there is only one nurse left and we have been complaining about this for more than four months,” said the nurse.

"This is where we receive emergencies, how can I be expected to handle more than seven patients all on my own," asked a nurse, who works in the casualty ward.

“It has been bad, the management has been allowing nurses to attend meetings, making it difficult for us to give proper attention to patients," she added.

When OurHealth visited the hospital last week, there were two nurses on duty in the casualty ward with at least 12 patients waiting to be seen.

During this time a school driver rushed in with Boitumelo Mokoena (5), who had been knocked over by a car. The seemingly unconscious child, who on the outside only had a nosebleed, was made to wait while nurses tried to find a bed.

There were no free beds in the casualty ward and it took 15 minutes before Moekoena was seen by the two nurses who transfered an elderly patient. However, it was too late and the little girl was declared dead by the time she was seen by the doctor and nurses.

Her distressed family arrived later after the driver had to inform them of the tragedy. She was laid to rest this week.

The daughter of the patient who had been transferred to make space for the little girl said: "It is heart breaking to remove my mother who is yet to be attended to. With only two nurses working here, one can’t help wondering if we are receiving proper care."

Nurses confirmed to OurHealth that they had lodged a formal complaint with management, but were still waiting for a response.

Selloane Molakeng is the OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from the Thabo Mofutsanyana health district in the Free State.

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