Mpumalanga healthcare plagued by water shortages and…

Healthcare workers are robbed and assaulted. Crippling water shortages leave family and friends with no choice but to bring their hospitalized loved ones the water they need to bathe in buckets. Persistent drug distribution problems lead to stock-outs at facilities. These are all questions that have emerged from recent reports on the public health system in Mpumalanga.

Official reports, such as an analysis of the Mpumalanga Ministry of Health’s third quarter performance report in the 2021/22 financial year and reports from the Public Protector, make for grim reading – as do reports from professional organizations such as the South African Medical Association (SAMA), unions and political parties in the province.

More than 54 safety and security incidents

According to figures presented by the Mpumalanga Ministry of Health last year to the provincial legislature, 54 cases of security-related issues have been reported in public health facilities in the province over the past two fiscal years. (Photo:

The province’s Democratic Alliance (DA) has flagged safety and security at public health facilities as a top concern. According to the party’s provincial health spokesperson, Jane Sithole, last year the department disclosed to the Mpumalanga Legislative Assembly that 54 cases of safety-related issues had been reported at public health facilities in Mpumalanga. Mpumalanga over the past two years.

The ministry reported some of these security incidents in its quarterly report. For example, in February this year, a female doctor was hijacked at gunpoint and nearly raped after completing her shift at Mapulaneng Hospital in Bushbuckridge.

In October last year, health workers and patients at the Empumelelweni Community Health Center (CHC) were robbed of their belongings at gunpoint and knifepoint.

Last year, a person employed by the provincial health department posed as a doctor and followed a pregnant patient into the bathroom of Embhuleni Hospital, where he allegedly raped her.

Meanwhile, the department says in the quarterly performance report that it has suspended security guards from a private security company who were recently caught on camera physically assaulting and harassing a hospital patient. from Shongwe who suffers from mental illness.

Concerned Sama

The South African Medical Association (Sama) said in a statement earlier that it was concerned about attacks on healthcare workers in government hospitals.

“In February, a doctor at Mapulaneng Hospital in Mpumalanga was attacked on his way to the doctors’ living quarters after his shift. She was hijacked, robbed at gunpoint, and the perpetrators attempted to rape her. The doctor is understandably extremely traumatized by this experience,” the statement read. “Sama fears that doctors working in public sector hospitals live and work in constant fear and generally feel unsafe in their working environment. Sama has on several occasions in the past raised concerns about the issue of security in public hospitals.

Both Sama and the DA called on the provincial government to urgently step up security at health facilities across the province.

Opposition parties, professional health bodies and trade unions have all expressed concern about the safety of health workers in public health facilities in Mpumalanga. (Photo: iStock)

The ministry responds

Mpumalanga Health Department Spokesperson Dumisani Malamule says Projector security is not the responsibility of the health department, but the department is looking into the issue of the safety of health workers and plans to install CCTV cameras in health facilities where there are none not.

“We should note that security issues in our health facilities are the responsibility of the Department of Community Safety and Transportation Management,” Malamule says.

Compromised quality of care

In October last year, the Public Protector’s Office released findings following investigations into some public hospitals in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. “We also reviewed other conditions at the facilities, including infrastructure issues, the availability of medical equipment and supplies, and human resource issues,” read a statement from the Protector’s office. of the citizen.

During the visit to Themba Hospital of Mpumalanga in Kabokweni, the Public Protector’s team observed shortages of personnel, lack of adequate space, a maternity ward in ruins, a shortage of medical equipment, an insufficient supply of PPE and poor infrastructure.

It was found that the maternity ward is in a deplorable state and that the rights of patients are violated. It has also been found that there is not enough space as there are only two birthing beds, no privacy, no decent waiting room and there is a shortage of staff even though the he hospital delivers 15 to 18 babies a day.

In its comments to the Ombudsman, the ministry said there were plans to build a new maternity wing at Themba Hospital and install mobile units. The department said it will also update its staff org charts and fill vacancies in the new fiscal year as the moratorium on jobs has been lifted.

CRSS investigation

Meanwhile, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is investigating hospitals in Mpumalanga after complaints about an alleged lack of medical services and water shortages. Hospitals under investigation for alleged lack of medical services included Standerton Hospital and Bernice Samuel Hospital in Delmas, while Mapulaneng Hospital in Bushbuckridge was questioned for alleged water shortages.

Asked about the water shortage issues, Malamule said Projector water supply was the responsibility of the local municipality.

At the time of writing, the SAHRC had not responded to a request from Spotlight about the status of its investigations.

Medical Depot Delays

Due to problems at the medical depot, many rural clinics and district hospitals are struggling to get drugs to patients on time, says DA’s Trudie Grove-Morgan. According to her, patients are facing shortages of chronic drugs and basic drugs such as Panado at Themba Hospital.

Malamule says they have started improving the system by appointing a new service provider. He also notes that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected drug supply.

According to the provincial secretary of Nehawu in Mpumalanga, Welcome Mnisi, pharmaceutical tendering should be outsourced.

“It is important that services such as the medical deposit are outsourced to provide an adequate supply of health services. On the issue of service delivery, credible and competent managers in health facilities should be employed as they are responsible for running these centers,” says Mnisi.

The Provincial Chairman of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in Mpumalanga, Collen Sedibe, said Projector that the issue of drug shortages had been there for some time and they had raised it with the department. According to him, the Hawks were now investigating the pharmaceutical tender (the current one) after the EFF filed a complaint regarding what it believed to be the improper awarding of the tender.

Mnisi, in turn, also believes that security services should be outsourced. “Internalisation is the only solution to the current security challenges because the government will then be held more accountable. In the event of a security breach, the health department returns responsibility to the designated service provider. If security is internal, it will ensure workers are not exploited,” Mnisi said.

water shortages

mpumalanga health water
Water shortages are affecting the delivery of health services in Mpumalanga. Family and friends of patients have no choice but to bring buckets of water to their hospitalized relatives. (Photo: James Oatway)

The EFF says it was disheartening to see family members of patients having to carry 20-litre buckets so their loved ones could bathe at Mapulaneng Hospital.

“It was terrible for us to witness. This is a gross violation of human rights. Water shortages in a healthcare facility during a pandemic are a recipe for disaster. Water is very important for infection control practices to be fully implemented,” Sedibe said.

Asked about the issue of water supply at Mapulaneng Hospital in particular, Malamule said water supply was a matter that was the responsibility of the municipality. He said they were working with local authorities to address water shortages, as this was common in the area.

Sedibe said there have also been problems with laundry services at some hospitals. “In one incident (earlier this year), laundry services at three hospitals were not working. They had to rely on the Rob Ferreira Hospital Laundry. You can imagine a situation where patients have to repeatedly use dirty laundry and compromise hygiene.

On the issue of laundry services, Malamule explained that it was “quite normal for other hospitals to help each other when needed”. He said it was not unusual for a backlog to occur if a system was under pressure. SM/MC

This article was published by Projector — public interest health journalism.


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