Broken operating theatres, load-shedding, and linen shortages are blamed for an astounding 3029 patients waiting for surgery at the Sebokeng Hospital.
This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.
According to Nkomo-Ralehoko, the breakdown for surgery is as follows:
• 2250 cataract patients wait for 9 months.
• 544 patients wait 3 years for hip and knee joint surgery.
• 133 urology patients are waiting for 9 months.
• 52 orthopaedics patients waiting for two months.
The operational state of the theatres is described as “preposterous”, with algae growing on peeling walls. Infection risk is increased because of broken chillers to keep the heat down, and broken autoclaves used to sterilise instruments. Other challenges are dysfunctional theatre lights and linen shortages.
In addition to poor maintenance, there are 48 vacancies in the surgical department, including 26 nursing posts, 4 medical officer posts, and 4 cleaner and 4 porter posts. They are also short of one anaesthetist and one specialist surgeon.
As with other hospitals, the poor maintenance is due to the hopelessly incompetent Gauteng Infrastructure Development Department (GDID).
It’s absolutely inhumane that patients suffer long waiting times and surgeons have to do the best they can in poor working conditions.
Bad management is also to blame – it should be easy to hire cleaners and porters as there are plenty of applicants for these jobs.
Sebokeng is a mid-size hospital that should be capacitated to do its own maintenance.
Staff vacancies should be filled, and backlogs can be cut by paying private hospitals to do surgery for public patients.
It is important that there is early intervention to prevent surgery waiting lists from ballooning to unacceptable levels.