Public Protector urges Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital CEO to fix problems at the facility
Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Tuesday asked the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital to urgently attend to worrying matters at the hospital that did not need money to fix.
She was speaking in Johannesburg at the end of her office’s stakeholder dialogue, where she interacted with hospital Chief Executive Officers, health sector NGOs, health care professionals and members of the public.
The Public Protector’s request followed her surprise visit on Monday to the facility – one of the largest in the world - where staff shared their frustrations including what they described as a “dire” shortage of medical personnel, medication and critical equipment.
Leaking roofs, paint that peeled off the asbestos ceiling in adult wards and live wires that hung loose from open electric plugs in children’s wards were but some of the Public Protector’s observations.
She also noted overcrowding, understaffing, unhygienic surroundings, shortages of medicine and important equipment, including incubators, ventilators and blood pressure meters.
Dr Sandile Mfenyana, CEO of the hospital, who attended the meeting on Tuesday, had not been present on Monday when the Public Protector and her deputy, Adv. Kevin Malunga, arrived unannounced at the hospital to interact with patients and staff.
The visit was part of evidence-gathering for the Public Protector’s systemic investigation into allegations of irregularities and inefficiencies in the procurement of hospital medicines and equipment.
The visit also formed part of the Public Protector’s on-going dialogue, which focuses on strengthening government's ability to deliver on Millennium Development Goals, with a particular emphasis on improving healthcare services and eradicating poverty.
“We understand that there is not money to fix everything and that plans are afoot to attend to some of the problems,” the Public Protector said. “But we ask the CEO to urgently attend to matters that do not require [a lot of] money to fix such as the blood-stained walls and the asbestos issue.”
Dr Mfenyana had earlier acknowledged the challenges facing the hospital, announcing that measures had been put in place to address some of the issues and that the facility’s management enjoyed the support of the National Department of Health on its plans.
“We commit that, working within the resources we have, we will not fail the people of Gauteng,” he told the meeting.
The Public Protector emerged from meeting with mixed bag of complaints, ranging from attitudes of health care staff at hospitals and clinics across the province to long waiting periods for services at the facilities.
The plight of an NGO that takes care of the mentally ill also came to the fore, with a representative complaining that the Department of Health had failed to pay them for seven months and that when the department eventually paid, it did not include interest.
Complaints relating to the provision of low-cost housing were also among the many reported on the day; and so were issues pertaining to the plight of people with disabilities in terms of accessing assistive devices such as prosthetics and wheelchairs.
Other complaints related to alleged harassment of informal traders by the Johannesburg Metro Police, discrimination against foreign nationals at medical facilities and licensing problems for liquor traders.
The Public Protector told complainants that her office would investigate the serious matters and follow up with provincial and municipal authorities on the undertakings they had made during the meeting to attend to the matters raised.
She will engage with the provincial legislature on Wednesday at 09H00, before proceeding to the Orange Farm Multi-Purpose Community Hall at 14:00, where she will dialogue with locals.