THE dilapidated Elizabeth Donkin Psychiatric Hospital in Port Elizabeth is one of the worst health institutions in the Eastern Cape.
This was revealed by provincial Health Department superintendent- general Siva Pillay in parliament yesterday.
The health boss painted a grim picture of the crisis that has crippled the department.
He said 44% of the Eastern Cape hospitals would fail the Office of Standards Compliance inspections.
The health office, created last year, is an independent body that ensures South Africa's hospitals and clinics comply with the minimum health standards.
Lack of clinical staff and shortages of life-saving equipment were some of the details revealed in parliament.
They also included hospitals operating without electricity, piped water and telephones.
The province was faced with a R20-billion infrastructure backlog.
With these daunting challenges, the department would be unable to meet the norms and standards set by the national Health Department.
Pillay told the national health portfolio committee the province had a 46% staff vacancy rate – most of them clinical staff – and R9-billion was needed to fill the void.
Besides the Elizabeth Donkin, four other hospitals were also in a derelict state but operating out of necessity, he said.
They included Nessie Knight Hospital in Qumbu, Isilimela Hospital in Port St Johns, Madwaleni Hospital near Elliotdale and Sundays Valley Hospital in Kirkwood.
"They would all fail the Office of Standards Compliance inspections," he said.
The compliance inspections deal with infrastructure, road access, safety and security, waiting times, drug availability, adequate staff, support services, and water and sanitation.
Pillay said Elizabeth Donkin, which would be relocated to the Dora Nginza Hospital, needed urgent attention. "Plans are in motion to improve the hospital. We are working on it."
He said there were some hospital buildings that were not "structurally sound".
Nessie Knight Hospital had structural cracks 5cm wide. "You walk around the hospital and you can feel the wind blowing."
Madwaleni Hospital had only one doctor on the staff.
"If it rains in Port St Johns, patients can never reach Isilimela. The roads are that bad. We also have problems with water there," he said.
Pillay told the committee:
ıAbout 170 clinics and 17 hospitals did not have piped water;
ıMore than 42 health facilities did not have electricity and were operated with generators;
ı68% of hospitals did not have essential medical equipment; and
ı16% of health facilities did not have telephone connectivity and some were only accessible by road in good weather.
He said the R1.1-billion infrastructure allowance allocated by the Treasury this financial year would merely "plaster the cracks".
Support services were also in a dire state.
The Eastern Cape department was also embroiled in a number of court cases involving the alleged contamination of water sources.
This was as a result of poor sanitation at some facilities.
Pillay said 26% of the budget was going to infrastructure development, operations and maintenance despite this being a municipal function.
For maintenance, the amount needed was more than R1-billion but only R150-million had been allocated, he said. For equipment, R1.2-billion was required.
"The whole budget becomes almost a joke," Pillay said.
Eastern Cape Health MEC Sicelo Gqobana said the province was trying its level best to upgrade and revamp the "very dilapidated" hospitals.
There are 856 clinics, 66 hospitals, 17 specialised hospitals, three regional hospitals and seven hospitals which are housed in three complexes.
MPs acknowledged the magnitude of the crisis and agreed the provincial healthcare system was on the verge of collapse.
Committee chairman Bev Goqwana wanted to know whether the province was using its financial allocations correctly given its history of maladministration and corruption.
Pillay said the department had received fewer audit qualifications and had also learnt to "think out the box" to try to cut costs.
COPE MP Papi Kganare said the department could not take sole blame for the financial state, as state organs also needed to answer to budget cuts and allocations.