Delayed angiogram machine risks lives of heart patients at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital

The Democratic Alliance is concerned that heart patients at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital are at risk because of the hasty decommissioning of the angiogram machine before the new one arrives in three months time.

This expensive machinery is critical in imaging blocked arteries for vascular surgery to save lives and the limbs of patients with vascular disease.

The old angio suite was supposed to be replaced in 2018, but medical staff were told in early August that it was being decommissioned within a week. They had to inform patients they have to wait for the two new replacement machines to be installed.

It is inexplicable why the old machine is not being used pending the arrival of the new machines which cost about R44.5 million. The delay may be more than three months as rooms need to be renovated to house the new machines.

I will be asking questions in the Gauteng Legislature about this poor planning that risks the lives of heart patients. I will also probe whether corruption is involved in the abrupt sale of the old machine, apparently for scrap.

False alarm of fire at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital

I visited the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital this morning following reports of a fire and patients being evacuated.

I was relieved to find it was a false alarm. According to a message from management to staff, no fire has been detected anywhere in the hospital.

Smoke was detected in kitchen 27, Block 2, Yellow Block, from a microwave. This led to some patients being evacuated and some people took their cars out of the parking levels.

Vigilance is required at this hospital which has been plagued by sabotage and vandalism. The police report into the devastating fire in April 2021 found arson was the probable cause, and the State Security Agency (SSA) has also identified risks and made recommendations.

This hospital does not yet have a fire compliance certificate, and fire safety measures need to be completed as soon as possible.

Unpaid suppliers stop critical instruments at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg hospital

Patient care at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital has suffered because unpaid suppliers have refused to supply critical instruments, including spinal needles, epidural sets and central venous catheters.

According to a written reply by Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko to my question in the Gauteng Legislature, the shortages affected patient care in the last six months as follows:

• Delays in resuscitation and administering fluids timeously, especially to critically ill patients.

• Risk of acquired hospital infections.

• Compromised patient care standards.

• Delays and postponement of theatre cases affecting theatre efficiency.

• Prolonged waiting time for surgery.

The MEC says “Alternative products were not of the equivalent standard required at a tertiary hospital.“

An astounding 2675 suppliers to the hospital are owed R276 million for more than a year.

The non-payments are not the fault of the hospital but “due to cash flow issues within the Gauteng Department of Health the supplier has put the facilities account on hold until all outstanding invoices are included in the payment run.”

The financial mismanagement of this department is an ongoing scandal that seriously affects treatment at the hospital.

Why should patients suffer because many suppliers are owed huge amounts for more than a year?

Compare this to the Western Cape Health Department which pays most of its suppliers within 15 days.

A top management shake-up is needed to ensure that competent people are brought in to clear the backlog of payments and pay all suppliers within the legally required 30-day period.

Full repair of Charlotte Maxeke hospital only in 2026

Despite promises that the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital will be fully repaired by the end of next year, the fire safety measures will only be achieved in February 2026.

This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko in an oral reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature last week.

According to Nkomo-Ralehoko, the repairs to Blocks 4 and 5 are scheduled for completion in December 2023, but “the fire completion work in Block 1 to 5 and administration relating to the non-compliance findings by the City of Johannesburg will be completed by 26 February 2026.”

The reason for the delay in installing fire safety measures is that patients in each of the 5 blocks will be decanted for six to eight months for each block.

The faster option recommended by the project management team was that two blocks be worked on simultaneously, but this would have required the decanting of services to other hospitals.

Clinicians at the hospital opted to keep all the services at the hospital, which means that only one block at a time can be worked on, instead of multiple blocks at the same time.

Unfortunately, there will be a disruption for patients moved from block to block as the fire safety measures are put in.

Nkomo-Ralehoko gives the total cost at R1 billion, but this could change due to private donations including the Solidarity Fund and the Gift of the Givers.

It is disappointing that there will be more delays in ensuring this hospital is fully repaired with fire safety installations to prevent a repeat of the devastating fire last year.

The DA advocates catch-up measures to cut the considerable waiting lists for surgery at this hospital, including the payment of private hospitals to do operations for public patients.

Surgeons operate in dangerous heat as aircon broken at Charlotte Maxeke hospital

Surgeons are operating in dangerously high heat in the theatres at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital (CMJH) as the air-conditioning broke down this week.

This is the second major hospital to experience air-conditioning failure in the recent hot weather as the chillers at the Steve Biko Hospital broke last week.

It is risky to operate in high temperatures as it increases the risk of infection. Still, surgeons are reluctant to cancel operations at CMJH as there are long surgery waiting lists.

There needs to be a thorough overhaul of maintenance at our public hospitals, which are poorly served by the notoriously corrupt and incompetent Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development.

Major hospitals like CMJH and Steve Biko should be able to do their own maintenance and choose decent contractors who can do the job.

Devolving maintenance and minor capital works would also help with challenges like the water shortages experienced by the Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa hospitals.

Meanwhile, the primary victims are patients whose operations are cancelled and staff who are stressed by the poor conditions under which they work.

Patients suffer as no central heating at Charlotte Maxeke hospital

Patients at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital have suffered from the cold this past winter as there has been no central heating the entire year.

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

According to Mokgethi: “The infrastructure has old heating system, which is above 43 years. Additional to this, theft of copper pipes that connects to the reheat boxes affects the temperature.”

Although blankets are available, patients have suffered in cold wards.

It has even affected surgery as three planned operations for newborn babies were deferred for two days due to very cold temperatures, and the operations only proceeded after oil heaters were provided.

The lack of heating is another example of poor maintenance at this major hospital which affects thousands of patients.

Theft of copper despite R40 million a year spent on security is also concerning.

Sick people should be in a comfortable temperature rather than shiver under blankets.

Mokgethi says “a business case is being compiled to replace the old heating
system with the latest technology available in the market.”

This is far too slow for something that should have been fixed long ago.

The DA is pushing for hospital CEOs to have more control over maintenance and infrastructure which would assist in speedy repairs and upgrades.

Why is probe of Charlotte Maxeke Hospital fire still outstanding?

The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes the report in Daily Maverick today on a leaked police forensic report that concludes that the fire at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital (CMJH) in April last year was an act of arson rather than any accidental causes.

It appears that the report was completed last year and recommended further investigation, but there is no indication that this was done.

I asked questions about this in the Gauteng Legislature a month ago, and Acting Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko said that the police had done the investigations but the report is still pending.

According to Nkomo-Ralehoko: “The forensic report investigation is coordinated by the Office of the Premier so, as the department, we are not in a position to provide clarity on any delays.”

In my experience the Premier’s Office is the graveyard of investigations as they are never done speedily or made public. Poor excuses are given for the delay in releasing the four investigations into the fire at the Bank of Lisbon Building in September 2018.

I am concerned that the fire at CMJH was done to cover up corruption in the storeroom where it started.

The fire damage has caused immense disruption and patients have suffered, including lives lost from delayed treatment.

The DA will continue to press for full disclosure of all investigations into the fire, and criminal prosecutions for implicated people.

Telephone crises at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital continues

Staff and patients continue to suffer from the broken switchboard at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital which has not been repaired for four weeks and will probably take another two weeks before it is fixed.

This is an unacceptable situation that is even endangering the lives of patients as staff have to use their own cellphones to call doctors in emergencies.

Last month I visited the hospital with DA Councillor Chloe Homer to find out what the problem was with the phones after many complaints that people could not get through to the hospital.

We were told that the PABX had failed after load-shedding on 12 July, but they expected it to be fixed in early August.

We now hear that the problem is the power supply module to the PABX and parts still need to be flown in from overseas to fix it.

Meanwhile, the hospital has been slow to provide extra cellphones to staff – only 10 for a huge hospital.

In one administrative unit, there is only one cellphone for 20 staff to share. Staff often have to use their own airtime in emergency cases.

Nurses tell of transferred patients who have to be turned away because of no prior communication, or patients arrive only to be told that their appointment has been rescheduled as they could not be contacted beforehand.

Relatives cannot phone the hospital to find out how their loved ones are doing.

The alternative numbers that have been provided are inadequate for a hospital with 800 patients in beds, and thousands of outpatients.

I have been persistently raising the problem of broken switchboards at Gauteng public hospitals. According to a written reply to my questions earlier this year, the Department blames outdated switchboards, and disclosed that 25 hospitals had recently experienced telephone problems, sometimes for weeks on end.

The DA will continue to press for the urgent upgrading of hospital switchboards as they perform a vital function that should not be neglected.


DA proposes solutions to Charlotte Maxeke hospital parking crisis

On Friday last week I visited the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital to assess the parking crisis and the broken telephone switchboard which are causing great distress to staff and patients.

I was accompanied by DA Clr Chloe Homer, and we spoke to officials in the CEO’s office.

They said that the switchboard’s PABX had been damaged by load-shedding on Tuesday 12 July and the supplier was supposed to come on Monday to fix it.

I expressed concern that alternative telephone numbers were not widely publicised, and that when I phoned the number given, I was told it was only for emergencies and they could not put me through departments.

They said that the telephone operator should have taken a message for the correct person to phone back and promised to brief them better.

The parking crisis has been ongoing ever since the hospital partially reopened after the fire last year. We saw how cars are jam-packed for long distances from the hospital, which causes great problems for staff and for sick patients.

See pictures here, here, and here.

I noticed that parking at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH) and at the provincially owned Emfuleni conference centre were both largely empty.

They are opposite the road from the hospital and can provide badly needed extra parking.

The CEO’s office staff said that they had tried to use the NMCH parking but had limited success.

The provincial government should be using its leverage with NMCH as it receives government funding, and it should be easy to open Emoyeni’s parking lot.

The best solution would obviously be the speedy repair of the hospital’s basement parking. According to a presentation to the Gauteng Legislature’s Health Committee earlier this year “temporary access and temporary parking” was scheduled for June to July, and additional parking from July to October this year, but we did not see evidence of this.

The DA will continue to press for speedier completion of repairs to the hospital, as well as better arrangements for parking in the interim.

Broken switchboard at Charlotte Maxeke hospital

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.