The dire, depressing state of four Durban public hospitals

Durban – Four of the largest public hospitals in Durban are crumbling and lacking basic services such as access to water.

The grim state of these government-run hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal was detailed in a report commissioned by National Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.

In December 2016, Motsoaledi tasked the Ministerial Task Team (MTT) to undertake visits to Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in Umlazi, Mahatma Gandhi Hospital in Phoenix, Addington Hospital, along Durban’s south beach and King Edward VIII Hospital in Berea.

They found that:
• The buildings are in a poor physical state;
• That hospital management was incompetent;
• The hospitals have a lack of service delivery; and
• That management positions are occupied by people with no relevant qualifications.

One of the members of the MTT who did the assessments was seasoned health official, Professor Ronald Green-Thompson.


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The report found that at the four hospitals assessed, there had been a drastic reduction of more than 40% over the last three years in the number of registrars (specialists in training) appointed in the various medical specialties.

The first assessment was done at the 36-year-old Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital, in the south of the eThekwini Metro, which seemed neglected.

The hospital was challenged by its location on a steep slope, with a single entrance next to a taxi rank which itself had no access to water or sewerage.

The report found that even the local community accessed water from the hospital.

It also found that the supply chain manager post had not been filled since March 2016 due to a provincial moratorium on the filling of posts.

Overcrowded wards

During the walkabout at the hospital, it was found that the maternity unit was a dark and somewhat depressing area, with little natural light and in need of maintenance.

The second assessment was done at the relatively new regional and district hospital Mahatma Gandhi Memorial.


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The team found that the male medical wards, converted for eight mental health patients, instead accommodated up to 16 patients. There are no specialist psychiatrists at the hospital.

Staff at the obstetrics and gynaecology wards were burnt out due to a high number of patients, with a high turnover rate of midwives.

Deliveries were between 550 and 620 a month.

Shortages

During the walkabout at the hospital, the team found that the on-call doctors’ beds had unchanged linen, there was dirty crockery and rubbish bins were overflowing.

At the 83-year-old, crumbling King Edward VIII, it was found that the hospital presented the greatest challenge in terms of patient care of the four hospitals.

There were limited skills of the management team and staff shortages.

CEO at the hospital, Dr Mandlenkosi Mazizi felt that the management was more administrators than managers.

Mazizi said in the report that the finance manager had a “weak personality” and was unable to control staff members.

The old hospital infrastructure imposed a major maintenance burden on the hospital.


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The “worst” visit was to the surgical ward on the fifth floor, where the lifts regularly were out of service, requiring patients to be carried up the stairs.

The last assessment was done at the “toxic physical environment” Addington Hospital on the Durban beachfront.

The management team was not strong, lacking a permanently appointed nursing manager and medical manager.

Shortages of surgical sundries, antibiotics, and vacuum assisted dressings and assistive devices had limited the ability to undergo orthopaedic surgery.

Motsoaledi said he had tabled the recommendations to Parliament’s portfolio committee and to Premier Willies Mchunu.

The KwaZulu-Natal health department was not immediately reached for comment.


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