Hospital staff down tools

DEMANDING ACTION: Komani Hospital workers were on their way to remove the management staff from working in the administration offices on Monday Picture: ABONGILE SOLUNDWANA

‘Patients sleeping on the floor’

Komani Hospital has become overcrowded, with a shortage of beds forcing some of the patients to sleep on mattresses on the floor.

This is one of many concerns of the hospital employees, who have downed tools in a Nehawu strike since Monday. The employees demand that premier Oscar Mabuyane attend to their demands, saying department of health MEC Sindiswa Gomba has let them down.

Nehawu’s regional chairman, Mahlubi Ralane, said: “The MEC came here, promised us heaven and earth and held a braai for us. She agreed that the hospital had big problems and that things had got out of hand. The last time we heard from her was September.“

He said they wanted Mabuyane to bring the health minister to attend to the problems in the institution, since the proper function of the district hospital was crucial as it was a pilot of the National Health Insurance.

The Rep reported “Health MEC outlines plans to set Komani Hospital in order,” on August 30 last year after she had committed to probing corruption and fraud and tightening security.

Again The Rep reported “Facelift starts for Komani Hospital wards,” on September 13, when renovations in two of the wards had begun.

Ralane said: “On Wednesday MEC Gomba wanted to come here when she was informed about the strike, but we turned her down.

“We received news that the MEC had allocated R4.5m to construct a short fence, yet we asked for a high one. We want her to double the amount to prevent patients from escaping.”

Ralani said some patients were murderers and rapists and nurses’ lives were in danger. This was due to staff shortages, with female security officers on duty who could do little to protect a nurse in the ward.

“The patients continue to wash with cold water in summer and winter. We have to boil water with urns. If it rains parts of the hospital are flooded, including ward 8 which was recently renovated. The toilet system is collapsing. There is a horrible stench which never fades, even after the facility has been cleaned.”

Ralane said patients’ meals were being prepared by hospital management, who mght not be present at the weekend.

Police stepped in on Monday to prevent employees from blocking cars leaving or entering the premises. Members from Aliwal North were deployed to and bring order.

On Monday Komani station commander colonel Loyiso Ngalo said: “I was contacted by community members who complained about the gate closure. When I arrived on the scene the gates were locked.

“I negotiated with the protesters to open the gate, but they would not comply. I organised a bolt cutter to open it. We are here to address the issue. We will arrange a meeting with the CEO of the hospital for the complaints to be escalated to the provincial office.”

An anonymous employee said: “People who are mentally ill must not be ill-treated. They are also people. The hospital must not be packed to capacity when there is no staff to care for them to the point where there are no beds and they are forced to sleep on mattresses.

“This cannot happen, patients have rights. The Human Rights Commission must be informed about this because it is not acceptable. We are not going to keep quiet, this is ill treatment.”

At the time of going to print the premier’s spokesperson, Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha, had not been reached for comment.

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