Health department commits to recruiting more doctors and nurses, but says problems can't be solved only by hiring
Ongoing complaints about quality of care at Wesfleur Hospital in Atlantis has spurred hundreds of residents to sign a petition calling for the Western Cape Department of Health to intervene.
Dura flats resident Herman Mentor started the paper-based petition which has so far received 700 signatures. Mentor used to be a security guard at the hospital until 2012. He says he felt compelled to start the petition after complaints about substandard patient treatment at the hospital, as well as what he witnessed there. He accused health workers of neglecting patients. He made several very serious allegations that GroundUp is not publishing because we are not in a position to verify them.
Hospital patients complain of unreasonably long waiting time, missing patient folders, and staff rudeness.
Pensioner Jane Cronje (70) who lives in Saxonsea, has various ailments. She too made several serious allegations which we cannot publish because we cannot verify them. But one of her allegations is a common complaint about the public health system: the failure to deal all a patient's ailments in one visit. "On Monday they draw blood. On Tuesday it's arthritis clinic. On Wednesday it's heart clinic ... I only attend Monday and Wednesday. I can't attend all the days in the week. Why can't the doctors examine me on one day? At 70 I can't afford to sit at the hospital the whole day for long hours everyday of the week," said Cronje.
Another pensioner who did not want to be named said she goes to the hospital at 5am and gets back home at 7pm. "We sit there the whole day. We sit there hungry." She said she could not go earlier than 5am because of ongoing gangster violence which she wished to avoid.
She also said the toilets at the hospital are filthy.
Health department spokesperson Monique Johnstone said that Wesfleur hospital is a 50-bed district hospital which saw about 3,500 to 4,500 patients in the emergency centre per month and 10,000 to 12 000 patients per month in the outpatients department.
"This, we know causes frustration ... However, most of these patients are classified as 'green' which means that they are supposed to be seen at the primary health clinics which is non-existent in the area. This is an issue which cannot just be fixed by increasing staff numbers but by addressing the entire system of healthcare delivery," said Johnstone.
She said the hospital has a high burden of disease and receives a high numbers of road accident victims due to the hospital's proximity to the N7.
"We also have a high incidence of gun violence in the area on a daily basis. These patients present a unique security challenge because sometimes rival gang members present at the same time and have to be separated. We also had a number of incidents where gangs would try to 'finish off' people they had shot ... admitted to the wards. We recently had to build a brick wall in the ambulance off-loading area because this area is visible through the palisade fencing and bullets (stray or targeted) would be aimed at the victims, staff and Emergency Medical Services," she said.
She said the hospital is currently recruiting four doctors, nine nurses and three administration staff. In June 2017, the hospital also appointed a manager whose job is to improve systems and service.
She said the hospital provides health-care to 80,000 people in Atlantis and more from the surrounding farming communities. It also provides care to Swartland municipality residents after fire gutted a local hospital there in March this year.