Security review needed as thefts at Bara hospital threaten lives of patients

The Democratic Alliance condemns the thefts at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital that threatened the lives of patients.

Ten metres of copper cable were stolen on Monday this week which forced the evacuation of 24 patients at the main ICU unit, one of whom has since died.

On Wednesday, copper pipes were stolen which cut off water to two operating theatres as their cooling system was disrupted.

I suspect these thefts involved insiders and possible collusion with security guards.

More than R20 million a year is spent on private security at this hospital, but major thefts continue.

Deliberate sabotage cannot be ruled out as Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital suffered vandalism which delayed the re-opening of the casualty unit earlier this year.

A security review is urgently needed for all Gauteng public hospitals as security contracts were last awarded in 2016 for a two-year period, but have been irregularly rolled over.

Public Servants strike hits Bara Hospital

The Democratic Alliance is very concerned that medical staff are on strike today at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

Videos have been circulated that show demonstration and burning tyres outside the hospital.

It seems that there is now only a skeleton staff to provide minimum services at this major hospital.

In the past, medical staff usually demonstrated during lunch and tea times, so it is disappointing that patients suffer because of the mass staff absence.

Some other public hospitals are also affected by the public sector strike.

Lives could be lost because of this.

Patients should never have to suffer because of irresponsible industrial action.

Patients suffer as 162 Bara hospital workers absent for 1333 days last year

The absence of 162 workers at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital for a total of 1333 days last year has negatively affected treatment of patients at the hospital.

This is admitted by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Mokgethi, 149 employees were absent because of unauthorised leave, and 13 employees absconded.

The overall absenteeism rate amongst the 6042 staff was 2.68%, but with wide variations amongst different staff categories – no top managers were absent, and only 1.38% of medical staff, but 12.64% of Allied Support staff (excluding cleaners and porters) were absent, and 4.21% of cleaners, porters and food service workers.

Trends identified include the following:

• Substance and alcohol abuse
• Habitual truancy
• Social problems

The following consequences of absenteeism are given:

• not sufficient staff available to maintain appropriate and acceptable required service delivery standards;
• compromising service norms and standards of the Department as a whole;
• not adhering in totality to the Batho Pele principles.

It is disappointing that only 34 employees were disciplined for absenteeism, which points to a lack of consequence management.

Tighter control of absenteeism will assist in providing a better service to patients at this hospital.

861 urology patients at Bara Hospital wait up to three years for surgery

861 urology patients are on the waiting list for surgery at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital (CHBH), some of whom will have to wait as long as three years.

This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

There are 10 patients who will wait between two and six weeks for surgery for cancer of the testes, kidney, or bladder, but the worst wait is for 250 patients with benign prostate cancer and 120 patients with urethral stricture (narrowing) who will wait between two and three years.

Other waiting times are as follows:

  • 6 months for 60 malignant prostate cancer patients
  • 2 years for 171 adult patients with undescended testes
  • 1 to 2 years for 150 patients with hydrocele (swelling in the testicle)
  • 6 to 12 months for 100 patients with incontinence

These are very long times to wait for painful conditions, and lives are at risk in the case of cancer delays.

According to Mokgethi, reasons for the long waiting times include the following:

  • many referrals from clinics are un-booked and walk-ins are common.
  • only one of the two urology operating theatres is currently used as the other one is dedicated to Covid-19 cases.
  • cable theft and electricity disruptions/water disruptions/linen shortages all continue to slow services.
  • extra patients from the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital

This very busy urology department sees more than 200 patients a day and needs two more nurses to provide a proper service to them.

It would help if extra capacity was built up at other hospitals to treat urology patients at an earlier stage and only refer the serious cases to CHBH.

Reliable electricity supply and clean linen would also cut down on the serious problem of cancelled operations.



8 Gauteng hospital fires in 7 years

The DA is concerned that yesterday’s fire at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is the third fire at a Gauteng public hospital this year, and the eighth fire in 7 years.

According to the Gauteng Health Department, the fire at Bara hospital occurred near the Covid-19 tents, and then spread to the laundry site before it was put out by City of Johannesburg fire services.

This follows a fire at temporary structures at the Steve Biko Hospital on 30 May this year, and another fire at this hospital on 12 June when there was a blaze in a linen closet in a medical ward.

All three fires were put out speedily, but it could have been far worse.

Other hospital fires include the following:

• severe damage at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital in April last year.
• a fire destroyed a store room at the Carletonville Hospital in February last year.
• a fire broke out at an administration block at Bheki Mlangeni Hospital in May 2019.
• dental rooms at the Tambo Memorial Hospital were destroyed by fire in July 2016.
• R7 million of medical supplies were destroyed by a fire in a store room at the Tambo Memorial Hospital in May 2015.

Furthermore, there was the fire that started at the Gauteng Health Department’s head office at the Bank of Lisbon building in September 2018, which burnt down the entire building and cost the lives of three fire fighters.

We still do not have a report on the Bank of Lisbon building fire, nor do we know the cause of the devastating fire at the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital.

The slow investigations and non-release of reports fuel suspicions of a cover-up to protect negligent officials and politicians.

According to a presentation at a recent meeting of the Gauteng Legislature’s Health Committee, only 50% of Gauteng public hospitals are compliant with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The DA will continue to press for the release of fire investigation reports, and for better fire prevention at our hospitals so that the lives of patients and staff are not at risk.

OPS cancelled as laundry shortage hits Bara Hospital

Hundreds of operations have been cancelled at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital due to a shortage of clean laundry for the past three weeks.

The shortage appears to be caused by broken machinery at the hospital’s in-house laundry in yet another instance of poor maintenance causing a disruption in health services.

Meanwhile, doctors are frustrated that surgery has to be cancelled even though there are long waiting lists.

In the case of hip and knee surgery, many patients have waited years for these operations only to be bitterly disappointed when they are cancelled.

Theatre patients also freeze in the cold weather because there are no blankets.

Laundry shortages are common in Gauteng public hospitals because they have to use the five provincial-owned laundries which are notoriously inefficient.

The laundry machines are poorly maintained and often break down.

I have often questioned the Gauteng Health Department as to why they continue to run expensive and unreliable laundries when it is not their core business.

Hospital CEOs should be able to use private laundries otherwise laundry disasters will continue to cause patients to suffer.

It is terribly disappointing that this hospital has to battle with so many avoidable problems, including food shortages earlier this year.

When will we see the effective leadership to fix our public hospitals instead of desperate open letters from medical staff who see their patients die needlessly?

Food crisis at Bara Hospital

Food is running out at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital because of contract mismanagement and non-payment of suppliers.

There has been no bread for the past two weeks and some doctors and nurses have taken in food to feed starving patients.

Donors have also been asked to provide food for the hospital.

A number of food contracts have expired so Requests for Quotations are used to fill the gap in a haphazard way that has lead to shortages of meat, chicken and fish despite paying higher prices.

Another crisis is the build-up of medical waste at the hospital as Buhle Waste has suspended services because they have not been paid.

It appears that the Gauteng Health Department has run out of money towards the end of its financial year on 31 March.

Meanwhile, staff and patients at Gauteng’s public hospitals are suffering because of the non-payment of various suppliers.

More misery is on the horizon because the 2022/23 Gauteng Health Budget announced this week received zero increase from the previous year.

It is high time that competent and honest people are appointed to run Gauteng’s health services to ensure decent services without wastage and corruption.

10 unpaid interns suffer at Baragwanath Hospital

It is truly deplorable that 10 intern doctors at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital are suffering as they have not been paid this year.

They do invaluable work in 12-hour shifts, but things are getting desperate as some of them are going hungry and don’t have money for transport.

Senior doctors at the hospital have now stepped in to help them from their own pockets.

The Gauteng Health Department claims that they were given more interns than expected, but this is a poor excuse for not making timely payment arrangements.

How can it be that there is always a non-payment issue at the beginning of each new year?

This includes doctors who were not paid their excess overtime in January.

Meanwhile, the Department paid R30 million for Cuban doctors last year, and still employs 14 of them instead of unemployed local doctors.

Furthermore, only 22% of health suppliers are paid within the required 30 days.

The Democratic Alliance will continue to pressure Gauteng Premier David Makhura to fix this department which is plagued by scandal and disaster.


Five and a half years wait for hip and knee surgery at Bara hospital

There is an immensely long surgery waiting list of 7288 patients at the Chris Hani Baragwanath, including 1771 patients who will wait five and a half years for their hip and knee operations.

This information is disclosed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Mokgethi, the long waiting lists are due to the high number of patients at the hospital and interruptions from the waves of Covid cases.

There are 738 hip patients and 1033 knee patients who will only get surgery by 14 April 2026.

This is an appallingly long time to wait for surgery – imagine being diagnosed and then being told to come back in 2026!

I am also concerned about the 2572 patients waiting for cataract operations, and 1048 children who are waiting for surgery at this hospital.

Unfortunately, I don’t see a concerted plan to drastically cut these backlogs which were long even before the Covid epidemic.

It is unconscionable for so many patients to suffer for so long. It seems that some waiting lists only get shorter because patients die while waiting.

There should be blitzes using operating theatres around the clock, and the department should pay private hospitals to do surgery for public patients.


Better organisation needed for vaccine rollout in Gauteng

It is highly disappointing that the vaccination of health workers degenerated into chaos this past Sunday as hundreds queued for hours at the Steve Biko Hospital, and the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital did not even open for vaccinations.

There was confusion and unsafe crowding at the Steve Biko Hospital as more than 1000 nurses and doctors queued there yesterday after receiving messages that they had been registered to receive the vaccine.

Gauteng has received 16 800 Johnson & Johnson doses, but these are currently only being administered at two public hospitals.

It is inexcusable that no vaccinations were done on Sunday at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital despite earlier promises in this regard. Every day is precious in rolling out the vaccine as soon as possible.

It also appears that priority was not always given to those health workers who deal directly with Covid-19 patients rather than other medical fields.

The vaccine fiasco this weekend highlights the urgent need for more vaccine rollout sites, including the private health sector.

It is not practical for thousands of health workers to take time off during the week from their busy hospitals to go to only two vaccination sites in the province.

I hope that teething problems with the vaccine rollout are sorted out soon and that multiple options are made available to assist health workers who work in the most risky positions.