EASTERN Cape hospitals and clinics are, in the main, dirty, with the staff uncaring and very few procedures in place to ensure the safe treatment of patients, according to a new report.
A countrywide facility audit carried out on behalf of the national Health Department and published yesterday, scored the province 51%, making it the third worst in the country after Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape.
Nelson Mandela Bay hospitals and clinics were rated the best in the Eastern Cape, with 59% compliance with standards focusing on patient rights, despite dire staff shortages at the facilities.
But the report on the survey – carried out over the past 13 months by independent researchers headed by the Health System Trust – expressed concern over a large number of clinics and hospitals in the Bay that were not functioning properly due to staff shortages.
There were also worries over the number of rural clinics with serious problems, including that some still had no water or electricity,
In reaction to the official survey, The Herald posted the report and asked for responses from patients via Facebook postings. Several former patients had lots to say – some good, mostly bad – about Bay hospitals and clinics.
Wade Hitzeroth, who was admitted to Livingstone Hospital in December after a motorcycle accident, said on Facebook he had to wait for about an hour after the accident before he was attended to.
"I was in indescribable pain. I had cuts everywhere," he said. "One nurse looked at me, laughed and walked away. Then she came back again.
"She bandaged my wounds but I received no painkillers and no X-rays. I was in horrible pain. I never want to go back there ever!
"I asked for a crutch to assist me in walking. She [the nurse] laughed once again and walked away. My father's girlfriend had to assist me in walking."
Mzukisi Zanoxolo said the NU11 clinic he attended often ran out of medicine.
Germaine Agnew said the toilets in the West End Clinic were disgusting and had no toilet paper.
"Everything is dirty and the basins are blocked," she said."
Precious Ndulula said Dora Nginza Hospital was untidy, with patients having to wait for five hours or more at casualty.
Eastern Cape Health Department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said MEC Sicelo Gqobana had experienced first hand the adverse conditions referred to in the report when he made surprise visits to hospitals and clinics.
"He ordered management to take action where necessary. At some hospitals where the MEC has paid a return visit, the picture has since changed."
In the national survey, Eastern Cape hospitals and clinics received particularly low scores for cleanliness, the attitudes of staff when it came to being positive and caring, and patient safety and security.
The survey also found that the only area where the hospitals had improved was in waiting times, with a 75% compliance rate to the standards.
The report echoed the concerns of Port Elizabeth Hospital Complex managers Drs Solly Pretorius and Aydin Vehbi, who have previously said they have a shortage of technicians. The report said there was no working equipment in some casualty departments, while there was particular concern over the non-availability of functional and essential medical technology in maternity wards.
It also expressed concern over the severe shortage of pharmacists countrywide and said there were acute shortages of essential medicines at most of the facilities.
Eastern Cape hospitals and clinics scored a dismal 22% when patients were asked to rate staff attitudes. In the Facebook responses, patients said they had spent more than 22 hours waiting for a doctor at Livingstone Hospital's casualty department this week.
Others said they had waited up to 13 hours over the weekend and the reception office was unmanned for more than an hour while people bled all over the floor.
According to the research findings, only two hospitals countrywide managed to improve their patient safety record since the last audit, with 161 managing better scores in cleanliness and 32 showing improved infection control.
The researchers also expressed concern that several clinics in Nelson Mandela Bay which should function as 24-hour primary health care facilities were not doing so.
They are the Kwazakhele, Rosedale, Central and Korsten clinics, together with Gqebera in Walmer.
Other former patients of the Livingstone, Dora Nginza and Provincial hospitals said on Facebook there were serious concerns over cleanliness and the general bad attitude of some staff, but other doctors and nurses were excellent at their jobs and caring.
"I sadly spent a fair amount of time at the Provincial Hospital – and I agree that they leave much to be desired in all these categories," Carol Tuck said.
"We must, however, give credit where it is due as there are wonderful doctors and nurses who do their best under difficult circumstances ... I am grateful to have such a doctor!"
Ronelle Nel said conditions at the Kabega Park Clinic were bad, with long waiting times and rude staff.
Provincial Hospital's oncology and haematology units were praised.