Linen shortages have disrupted surgery at nine Gauteng public hospitals this year, leading to infection risks and the cancellation of about 325 operations.
This information was revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.
According to Mokgethi, the following hospitals were affected by a shortage of clean linen:
Far East Rand
Chris Hani Baragwanath
Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg
Mamelodi was the worst affected hospital as about 200 operations had to be cancelled when linen shortages persisted for two weeks.
At Sebokeng hospital 80 cataract operations were cancelled, Jubilee hospital cancelled 18 operations, 15 operations were cancelled at Helen Joseph hospital, 9 ops at George Mukhari hospital and 3 ops at Leratong hospital.
Although the Chris Hani Baragwanath and Charlotte Maxeke hospitals also suffered some linen shortages, they had back-up plans and were able to avoid cancelling any surgery.
It is traumatic for surgeons and staff to have to cancel operations for patients who may have waited for years as the waiting lists are very long, especially for hip and knee cases.
Most of the linen shortages are because of machine breakdowns and inefficiency at the two state laundries which supply public hospitals – Dunswart Laundry on the east rand, and the Masakhane Laundry in Roslyn in Tshwane.
Some hospitals, including Mamelodi, George Mukhari and Charlotte Maxeke have used private laundries to assist with the shortages, but others feel obliged to only use the state laundries despite their failures.
Sebokeng Hospital has now opted for an in-house laundry service and Far East Rand Hospital has used disaster stock and even borrowed from other hospitals.
The laundries run by the Gauteng Health Department are notorious for inefficiencies and high cost. It is tragic that surgery is disrupted because of linen shortages which are easily avoidable with good management.
There is really no reason why the provincial government has to run laundries when there are many private laundries that can do a better job at lower cost.
The state laundries should either be fixed rapidly or phased out in favour of private laundries so that linen shortages never again cause problems for hospitals.