Emergency Medical Services a problem in Mgungundlovu, Public Protector told

Transportation and emergency care for the ill have emerged as key problems in KwaZulu-Natal’s Mgungundlovu District, with the area’s Emergency Medical Service coming under heavy criticism during Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela’s visit to Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.

The Public Protector and her deputy, Adv. Kevin Malunga, are in the province as part of Annual National Stakeholder Dialogue of the Public Protector, which focuses on strengthening government's ability to deliver on Millennium Development Goals, placing a particular emphasis on improving healthcare services and eradicating poverty.

During a surprise visit to Edendale Hospital earlier in the day, the Public Protector heard from patients, who recounted stories of how their loved ones lost their lives allegedly due to poor emergency medical services.

A teary woman queuing for medical attention along with dozens of others told the Public Protector that her uncle passed on last year after the ambulance that was meant to collect and ferry him to hospital failed to arrive even though the family had been assured that it was on its way.

“We had to hire our own car. Unfortunately my uncle died shortly upon arrival at the hospital,” the woman said, adding that they were told that they had to get their own transport since the family did not live very far from the hospital compared to other far-flung households.

Another woman alleged that a man, who had arrived at the hospital in an ambulance, died while seated on a wheelchair because medical staff at the hospital failed to afford him the necessary medical attention upon his arrival.

Patients were, however, not the only people having problems with the EMS. According to nurses at the hospital, ambulance services were one of the big contributors to maternal deaths as patients only arrived at the hospital when they were in a state of total distress. The hospital’s maternal mortality rate stood at 300 to 400 per 100 000.

But emergency services were not the only challenges dogging the hospital. Long waiting periods in queues; files, including x-ray sheets that go missing; inadequate staff, insufficient space and aging equipment that needed replacing were some of the other issues that came up.

In its repose, hospital management indicated that the population serviced by the facility has increased significantly since the facility opened its doors to the then smaller community 60 years ago. As a result, the hospital was battling to keep up with the demands.

Chief Executive Officer Zanele Ndwandwe said the hospital had a daily intake of 2000 patients, with an 82 percent of bed occupation at any given time. This, Ms Ndwandwe said, indicated the need for more doctors, nurses, pharmacists and radiographers.

The Public Protector was encouraged by Ms Ndwandwe’s sense of awareness of the challenges facing the hospital and her apparent plans to attend to the problems, as well as the plight of patients.

The Public Protector and her deputy also interfaced with communities at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall, where locals complained about service and conduct failure issues in Richmond. Allegations related to RDP housing and nepotism, among other things.

Community Care Givers attached to both the Departments of Social Development and Health also complained that their R1500 monthly stipend was not enough for them to make ends meet. Some added that they often had to go for months without the stipend while others said they have since been absorbed by the Departments’ yet they were still paid at the rate of Care Givers.

An elderly woman reported that her equally older associate from Dumbaza was raped and murdered last year after leaving her home at dawn in order to queue earlier for services at a clinic located 6km from her house. She suggested home delivery of medical supplies for older persons.

A man, who identified himself as a guardian of minors, alleged that the local Master’s Office was, through the Guardian’s Fund, disbursing benefits due to the children under his care to a fraudulent beneficiary who used all the money for himself.

Others complained about land claims, lack of government support for local sporting activities, underdevelopment, rude nursing staff St Adens Eye Clinic, grants for early childhood development centres and alleged heavy-handedness of management at the local FET College.

Responding to the complaints, the Public Protector told the community that she would prepare a report that would be shared with government in order for the authorities to address the issues that they could immediately address without her involvement.

“There are those cases where people say their relatives died because ambulance did not show up whereas they were promised that the ambulance will come,” the Public Protector said.

“In respect of those, we are firstly going to allow the hospital to do the investigation and we will review that investigation to make sure that if there was wrongdoing the family can get closure and redress.”

Chief Director of Hospital Services from the National Department of Health, Mr Ramphelane Morewane, who continues to travel with the Public Protector team from one province to the other, clarified government challenges and outlined remedial plans.

The Dialogue continues to the Provincial Legislature on Wednesday (09H00) before proceeding to CBD Multi-Purpose Hall, Ulundi (10H00) and Sikhawini, Hlanganani Hall Richards Bay (10H00) on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

For more information, contact:

Kgalalelo Masibi
Public Protector South Africa
012 366 7006
079 507 0399
0800 11 20 40

Published Date: 
Tuesday, August 13, 2013