Thousands of patients will suffer as major parts of Joburg hospital will only open next year

Thousands of patients who attended the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital will continue to suffer from its closure as the infrastructure requirements to open large sections are only expected to be completed next year.

This is revealed by Gauteng Infrastructure Development MEC Tasneem Motara in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Motara, there is a need for “alternative solutions to make the hospital compliant to the latest legislation”, and professional service providers were commissioned to investigate the relevant requirements for electrical, structural, mechanical, architectural, fire and general occupational health and safety. 

A phased approach has been adopted as follows:

Short term – certificate of occupation received for Radiology and Oncology.

Medium term – areas declared structurally safe and deemed critical by clinicians.

Long term – areas that were damaged by the fire and declared structurally unsafe in the Northern side of the hospital. 

The timetable for the medium term infrastructure completion is 2023, and for the long term the dates are “dependent on the outcome of the forensic investigation and the detailed structural investigation recommendations.”

 I am concerned that there is no budget allocation in the current financial year to fix the hospital, but funds will be sourced from existing maintenance and other budgets which may not be sufficient.

 R100 million has been requested for remedial work for the fire, but there is no estimated construction cost as yet for the repair of the most damaged part of the hospital. I estimate that it will likely be about R1 billion for full repairs. 

 Meanwhile, more than 2300 patients wait for cataract operations at the hospital, and there are huge backlogs for other types of surgery that affects hundreds of others.

I receive calls every day from anxious patients whose surgery was postponed because of the Covid-19 crisis, and they now suffer in pain without any indication when their operations will be done.

I fear that the provincial departments that failed to prevent or contain the devastating fire at this hospital will not be capable of meeting their own targets to fix the damage.

The DA will push for the use of the best private sector skills to expedite the hospital repairs, and for private hospitals to be contracted to cut the surgery backlogs for public patients.

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