I have been receiving complaints that anxious relatives have been unable to contact the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital as their phones are broken.
I tested this myself several times, receiving a message that my call could not be completed.
It is unclear why the switchboard is broken, but the hospital has blamed load-shedding in the past for telephone failures.
According to a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature earlier this year, 25 public hospitals have recently experienced switchboard problems, sometimes for weeks on end.
Most of these problems are blamed on outdated switchboards.
It is hugely distressing when people can’t get through to a hospital to find out how their loved ones are doing.
Patients also lose out when they cannot contact hospitals to get information for their medical needs.
And staff have to use their own mobile phones to contact patients.
Some hospitals have had persistent telephone problems for more than ten years.
I will continue to push for the upgrading of switchboards in our hospitals as they perform a vital function.