#HospitalHealthCheck: DA to act as MEC ignores RK Khan Hospital’s acute staff shortage

Democratic Alliance media statement by Dr. Imran Keeka, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health


#HospitalHealthCheck: DA to act as MEC ignores RK Khan Hospital’s acute staff shortage


The Democratic Alliance (DA) will today write to KZN Health portfolio chairperson, Dr Yusuf Bhamjee regarding chronic staff shortages at RK Khan hospital – with the facility currently being forced to run with only a quarter of its required staff.

The move follows an oversight inspection by the DA to the facility late last week as part of its #HospitalHealthCheck campaign.

According to the hospital’s Human Resources Manager, just 52 out of a total of 236 staff required for functions such as orderlies, kitchen staff, cleaners and porters remain. This includes enrolled nurses. The massive staff shortage has created various problems at the facility, including keeping the hospital clean.

During the inspection, the DA also established that recent media reports of patients being reduced to feeding each other are true. According to the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the incident took place during the evening tea service with patients left to help themselves and assist other immobile patients. This was after there were not enough staff on duty.

RK Khan is one of the busiest hospitals in KZN with a 96% occupancy rate of patient beds. Despite this, the DA has also established that there are nine senior citizens who have been abandoned at the facility, with one individual having been there for a year. This after they were dropped off either by relatives or others when they were sick and have not been collected since.

According to the CEO their next of kin cannot be traced despite all attempts. As a result, they are currently occupying patient beds despite not needing to and adding additional strain to a hospital that is already stretched to the limit.

During the hospital walkabout, the DA also found that the X-ray Department still has no defibrillator in spite of us having told MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo in 2014 that it was broken. This in a busy hospital where the need for what is a potentially life-saving piece of equipment in an emergency is critical.

We also learned that waiting times for CT scans are as long as three months while the next available mammogram appointment is in 2019.  This waiting period has had a huge impact on patient care with only ‘possible cancers’ or those that can be surgically treated or are in early stages given priority.

The referral waiting time to seen by oncology services at another Durban hospital – Inkosi Albert Luthuli – can take up to six months so that by the time the patients get there, their initial CT scans are useless because of the spread of the disease. They are then sent back to RK Khan for a repeat and staging CT scan, adding to the already massive delay in accessing treatment and to the waiting time of almost one year to receive oncology services in KZN.

In many cases these delays have been a death sentence for cancer patients. Yet the MEC and President Ramaphosa continue to boast about the massive roll-out of screening programmes for cancer

Hospital management has confirmed to the DA that they have followed due process and raised the challenges they are facing with the province’s Health Department. To date they have had no assistance. This is unacceptable and the DA will raise this as a matter of urgency with the portfolio committee chairperson.

KZN’s Health Department has a vacancy of 5 926 critical staff and we will need to determine how many vacancies there are in non-critical posts.  This could run into several thousands more than the critical staff shortage number.

The situation at RK Khan and at so many other KZN hospitals and clinics has arisen over time and is a direct result of the freezing of all posts in 2015. At the time the DA condemned the move. We also warned the MEC against using it as a measure to fix the evolving crisis of financial maladministration within his Department.

Yet today, MEC Dhlomo, as political head of this Department remains unaccountable for both the collapse of services and the death of so many patients in KZN. He is also not being held accountable for the malfeasance under his watch. In fact, his social media #dhlomo10 campaign seems to suggest he will see through this term as Health MEC while the deplorable conditions will worsen.

The DA will continue to expose incompetence and a lack of sufficient care, services and management at public healthcare facilities.

Citizens have only one option for change and that is to ensure that they use the ballot box next year. The time has come to get rid of poor governance.

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