Public Protector visits "one of the worst-resourced" hospitals

Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Tuesday described Postmansburg Hospital in the Northern Cape as "one of the worst" public healthcare facilities she has seen since the beginning of her National Stakeholder Dialogue.

"The hospital really has incredible people who care about the people they serve," the Public Protector said following a surprise visit to the facility. "But the state of the hospital is quite disappointing."

The Public Protector is in the province over the next two days as part of the Dialogue, which seeks to strengthen the state's ability to deliver on the Millennium Development Goals, placing emphasis on health and poverty.

Accompanied by her deputy, Adv. Kevin Malunga, the Public Protector was shocked to learn that the 45 bed hospital, with a 95 percent bed utilisation, had only one doctor after two resigned two months ago.

With the assistance of seven professional nurses and 11 enrolled nurses, who work on eight-hourly shifts, the lonesome doctor has to attend to all wards and is hardly off duty. He also services four nearby clinics. At night, the 52-year-old hospital has only one nurse on duty.

Although plans are afoot to appoint two more permanent and a few sessional doctors, the facility was struggling to attract healthcare professionals. One of the causal factors for this state of affairs, it was said, was staff quarters, with the doctor living in a converted garage.

The Public Protector was further disturbed by the fact that the facility's critical wards such as the paediatric section were not properly ventilated and did not have controlled temperature. It also did not have a functional theatre, and important equipment such as a sonar.

"If a mother was in labour and needed a caesarian operation, she would have to be referred to Kimberley, which is situated 220 kilometres away," she said.

"If a patient was in need of oxygen, staff has to run around the facility with a large cylinder of oxygen to help the patient concerned."

The Public Protector was however encouraged that efforts were being made to revamp the hospital and build a gateway clinic nearby, with the help of the local Kumba Iron Ore mine. Tenders have been put out for some critical equipment.

Provincial authorities said they were expecting the return of about 50 doctors, who've since went to Cuba to study medicine. Some of them would be deployed to work in the area.

"Our role is to act as a trigger mechanism to alert authorities to the needs of what we have identified and ensure that the needs are addressed," the Public Protector said.

She added that her office would work with authorities to work out plans to address the problems and oversee the implementation thereof.

The Public Protector has to date visited 13 public health care facilities in seven provinces since the dialogue kicked-off at the beginning of July

These include Chris Hani Baragwanath in Gauteng, Mafikeng Provincial in North West, Frere in Eastern Cape and Edendale in KwaZulu-Natal. She will tour the Kimberley Hospital Complex on Wednesday.

The Public Protector later had a meeting with the community of Tsantsabane local municipality on health, poverty and general service delivery issues.

At the meeting locals complained about mine bosses that allegedly harassed locals in relation to occupation of land. The plight of communities that have benefited from land reform programmes also came to the fore, mainly frictions between beneficiaries and Community Property Associations.

Allegations of corruption were levelled against the local municipality in relation to tenders and staff recruitment.

Other complaints related to mobile clinics, the impact of under-staffing at Postmansburg hospital, under-development, skills development, RDP housing, false water billing, lack of sanitation, social work and ambulance services.

The Public Protector will meet with other stakeholders at the Provincial Legislature in Kimberley at 10:00 on Wednesday. She will further meet with parliamentarians at the same venue on Thursday.

For more information, contact:

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


Published Date: 
Tuesday, August 20, 2013