About 500 ambulances with emergency patients are diverted every month from public hospitals in Gauteng that are too full to accept them, raising the risk of lives lost due to excessive delays.
This was revealed at a presentation by Gauteng Emergency Management Services (EMS) to the Gauteng Legislature’s Health Committee on Friday last week.
There were 5347 diversions of ambulances from January to October this year, so patients have to be taken to a hospital that is further away, often adding a number of hours before critically ill or injured patents receive treatment.
The hospital with the most diversions is Thelle Mogoerane Hospital in Vosloorus which has a 4-hour diversion virtually every day. Other hospitals with more than 15 diversions a month in the last 3 months, which means they turned away ambulances every second day, include the following:
• Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital (CHBH)
• Jubilee Hospital
• Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg (CMJH)
• George Mukhari Hospital
• Far East Rand Hospital
• Steve Biko Hospital
• Tambo Memorial Hospital
• Leratong Hospital
• Tembisa Hospital
• Sebokeng Hospital
• Helen Joseph Hospital
• Kalafong Hospital
• Bheki Mlangeni Hospital
Last month (October), 585 patients were diverted, including 245 Priority 1 patients, 175 maternity and pre-term labour, paediatric patients, 131 adult ICU (Intensive Care Unit), 98 psychiatric and 54 neonatal patients.
A case study is given of a patient who died on 28 May 2017 because 5 hospitals (CMJH, CHBH, Helen Joseph, Tembisa and Steve Biko) were all on diversion for a patient with a stab wound who needed to be transferred from Edenvale Hospital. The call was received at 11.10 am, but only George Mukhari Hospital in Garankuwa was prepared to accept the patient even though it is a 90-minute drive for over 100 km. A helicopter was called which landed at Edenvale at 13.54, but the patient was reported dead at 14.07 pm almost 3 hours after the first callout. This patient could have survived if taken to CMJH which is only 15 kilometres away from Edenvale.
Fewer ambulances are available to respond to emergencies because they get diverted to distant hospitals.
Patients lying on the floor or in the corridors are a common sight in overcrowded hospital casualty departments. The casualty crisis needs to be fixed urgently by hiring more staff and expanding facilities to accommodate more beds.