Outrage over misspelt signs at Helen Joseph Hospital

Thousands of people have expressed outrage over misspelt signs at the Helen Joseph Hospital that I posted on Twitter earlier this week.

I was sent photographs of the three signs (see here, here and here) and informed that they were possibly from Helen Joseph Hospital. I posted them on Twitter to see if anyone could confirm this.

The signs read as follows:

• Palliance Care
• Anaestheasia
• Dinning Wall

My tweet went viral and Helen Joseph Hospital responded that “The signage was put up a few weeks ago and was immediately corrected after the errors were identified.”

But people were justifiably not satisfied with this response and questioned how this could happen in the first place.

We need to know what fishy company got the contract for this sign, why they were so incompetent and what they were paid for it.

Is this another example of corruption such as we have seen at the Tembisa Hospital which grossly overpaid for items like skinny jeans and luxury armchairs?

I have put in the following questions in the Gauteng Legislature to be answered by the Gauteng Health Department:

“With regard to the signage that was placed in the Helen Joseph Hospital that included “Palliance Care”, “Anaestheasia” and “Dinning Wall”, will the MEC please indicate:

1. What company did the signage;

2. What process was followed in appointing this company;

3. If it was a quote process, what were the companies that gave quotes and how much in rands and cents were each of these quotes;

4. Why were these companies chosen to give the quotes;

5. Who chose the company that did the signage;

6. Why were these mistakes made;

7. How much in rands and cents was paid to the company that made the signs;

8. How many signs in total were put up and how many needed to be replaced;

9. What was the wrong language on the signs that were replaced (please give the actual language in each instance);

10. What was the consequence management for this embarrassing mistake?”

I am determined to get to the bottom of this matter.

There is far too much abuse of hospital money while patients suffer because of poor care.

Murdered whistleblower Babita Deokaran uncovered massive corruption at the Tembisa Hospital with suspicious companies controlled by a few individuals.

This may be the case at other hospitals as well.

The DA proposes that all hospital contracts are made public on a website so as to pick up anomalies and enforce compliance with financial controls. This would ensure that competent companies are used that provide value for money instead of ripoffs.

91 doctors and nurses not paid at Helen Joseph Hospital

The Gauteng Health Department has failed to pay April salaries to 91 doctors and nurses at the Helen Joseph Hospital despite the extra burden from Covid-19 cases and patients diverted from closed departments at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital.

According to a memo by hospital CEO Dr Relebohile Ncha, the non-payment is because there is a delay in the approval of 91 out of 177 Covid-19 contract posts for the 2022/23 financial year.

This is yet another example of incompetence that hurts hard-working medical staff who are trying to save lives in difficult circumstances.

Earlier this year interns at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital also endured late payment of salaries which was so bad that doctors donated to a fund to help them.

I have contacted Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi to speed up the payment to the 71 staff members.

But the real need is radical surgery to fix the deep-rooted problems at the Gauteng Health Department which lurches from crisis to crisis.

I look forward to interacting with Dr Nomonde Nolutshungu, the new Head of Department, to assist her in making the changes to ensure a decent public health service in Gauteng.


Deaths increase as Helen Joseph hospital struggles with overcrowding and 148 staff vacancies

Deaths and serious adverse events have increased at the Helen Joseph Hospital’s emergency department as they battle with a flood of extra patients from the fire-damaged Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital despite having 148 staff vacancies.

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

According to Mokgethi, the emergency department has been severely affected as follows:

  • Overcrowding as a result of bed shortages in wards and especially the Intensive Care Unit.
  • Overload of staff and equipment.
  • The Resuscitation area often holds double the intended patients, with associated lack of vents/monitors and staff to monitor all patients.
  • Oxygen has been a challenge especially over the Covid-19 epidemic.
  • Staff burnout.
  • Increased deaths and Serious Adverse Events as they do not have the staff to see all patients.
  • Increased complaints due to the huge strain on doctors who may get short-tempered with patients and relatives who are aggressive and rude.

Another major problem is that the number of psychiatric patients is more than four times what they can handle, with many incidents of abuse to staff including the stabbing of a security guard and attempted hanging of a patient in a small cubicle!

The hospital’s 148 staff vacancies include 125 nurses, and 8 vacancies in the hard-pressed emergency unit.

There are 2206 funded posts in total, but the hospital should really have 943 more posts to perform its upgraded functions as a Tertiary Hospital. A proposed organogram for these posts was submitted in January 2013 but was never implemented.

I am greatly concerned at the Gauteng Health Department’s neglect of this hospital by starving it of the funds and staff needed to provide a proper health service for patients.

The most visible strain is in the emergency department where medical negligence has soared and lives are lost because of gross overcrowding.

Meanwhile, R500 million has been wasted on refurbishing the Anglo Ashanti Hospital in the far west rand, which the Special Investigating Unit has found was spent irregularly. This money should have gone to existing hospitals like Helen Joseph which are struggling with extra patients due to Covid-19 and the partial closure of the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital.

The DA will push for better health spending in areas of greatest need to alleviate suffering, rather than corrupt projects that waste money.

More grief for mother of daughter who died at Helen Joseph hospital

I am appalled that the Helen Joseph Hospital has lost the clothes of a patient who died there in terrible circumstances last week, while the grieving family needs to bury her in these clothes for cultural reasons.

This has added to the heartbreak of Ms Nqobile Dube whose 26-year-old critically ill daughter, Sichelesile, died in a wheelchair at the hospital’s casualty after staff ignored her for more than a day.

Dube wanted to bury her on Friday, but the hospital did not supply the clothes and Dube could not find her daughter’s belongings in a room that she was shown with a pile of clothes.

According to Dube, it would be disrespectful to her family and ancestors to bury her without these garments.

It is unbelievable that the hospital continues to bungle this matter with gross insensitivity to the traumatised family.

They need to know why the hospital did not make every effort to save Sichelesile’s life, instead of totally ignoring her as she suffered in her wheelchair.

I hope that hospital management learns from Sichelesile’s death to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.

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Horrific death at Helen Joseph hospital highlights need for broad rescue plan

I am horrified by the ordeal suffered by a Johannesburg mother whose daughter died unattended at the casualty department of the Helen Joseph Hospital earlier this week.

According to Ms Nqobile Dube, she took her 26-year-old critically ill daughter Sichelesile to the hospital on Monday at 1 pm and was told she would be admitted at 9 pm that night. But when she came back on late Tuesday afternoon, she found that she had passed away in her wheelchair at the same spot, with her mouth and eyes wide open.

This terrible story highlights once again the neglect that many patients have experienced at Helen Joseph’s casualty, which is grossly overcrowded with patients who can wait days before being admitted to a ward.

The situation has worsened with the Covid-19 epidemic as well as the extra burden of patients who would have gone to the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital (CMJH) which has been largely closed since the fire there in April this year.

Instead of assisting the Helen Joseph, the Gauteng Health Department has dithered in reopening the safe parts of CMJH and wasted huge amounts of money in building extra beds in the wrong areas without staff and equipment. This includes R500 million spent on the 181-bed Anglo Ashanti Hospital in the Far West Rand that does not even have oxygen for the small number of Covid patients admitted there.

None of this excuses the poor management at Helen Joseph where staff ignored a desperately ill patient for more than a day until she died.

A full investigation is needed into this incident, but what is really required is a complete overhaul of the Gauteng Health Department to ensure that money is spent effectively to ensure adequate staff and equipment at all public hospitals.

The DA calls for a rescue plan that would involve the best brains in the private sector to fix the deep-rooted problem in this dysfunctional Department, otherwise the hospital horrors will continue.

Local Government Elections are coming up! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

Joburg Water disruption hits Helen Joseph Hospital

Johannesburg’s unreliable water supply hit the Helen Joseph Hospital this week, which struggled without water for more than two days, causing great distress to staff and patients.

The cause of the problem was a disrupted supply of water from the Hursthill Reservoir, which affected a large part of north west Johannesburg.

Patients at the hospital were given bottled water, but toilets became blocked and smelly, and a number of operations were cancelled.

One patient even ordered a delivery of water from a supermarket in order to help other patients in his ward.

This hospital has suffered previously from the city’s failing water system due to years of poor maintenance.

Our public health system is already severely strained, but hospitals and clinics have to cope with water and power cuts which happen without warning.

Sometimes the problem is internal, like when pipe problems recently cut water to the Steve Biko hospital.

It is outrageous that mismanagement at various levels inflicts hardship on places of healing.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

Adverse events rise in Gauteng’s worst hospitals

Serious Adverse Events (SAEs) in Gauteng public hospitals have risen from 4170 in 2019 to 4701 last year, an increase of 13%, with Tembisa Hospital by far the worst with 1226 SAEs during this period.

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

A SAE is defined as an event that results in an unintended harm to the patient by an act of commission or omission rather than by the underlying disease or condition of the patient.

Hospitals with high numbers of SAEs for 2019 and 2020 include the following:

George Mukhari  – 1022

Chris Hani Baragwanath  – 883

Kalafong  – 850

Weskoppies  – 74

Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg  – 632

Thelle Mogoerane  – 380

Mamelodi  – 362

Sebokeng  – 324

Helen Joseph  – 319

Leratong  – 258

Jubilee  – 204

The Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital has the best record, with not a single SAE in 2019, and only 2 SAEs last year.

Steve Biko had the fewest SAEs of the four academic hospitals (the others are Bara, Charlotte Maxeke and George Mukhari), with 55 SAEs in 2019 and 200 SAEs last year.

Some hospitals saw sharp increases from 2019 to 2020. Edenvale hospital went up from 13 to 129, Leratong from 61 to 197, Helen Joseph from 102 to 217, and Sebokeng from 107 to 217.

The 747 SAEs at Weskoppies mental hospital are of concern as there is no surgery at this hospital.

Tembisa’s very number of adverse events highlights the poor judgement in choosing it as a Covid-19 treatment centre. This was a finding of the Medical Ombudsman when he investigated Shonisani Lethole’s death at this hospital.

Our health sector has been battered by the Covid-19 pandemic, and effective measures need to be taken to ensure medical negligence is minimised as much as possible. Proper staffing and resources is critical, as well as good training, and disciplinary measures for non-performance.

Helen Joseph Hospital should find alternative Halaal food supplier

Muslims are understandably dismayed by a circular issued this week by the Helen Joseph Hospital that Halaal food services are terminated from 15 December 2020.

According to the hospital “due to unforeseen circumstances we would not be able to cater for any Halaal certified meals.”

This is most unfortunate as observant Muslim patients will not eat non-Halaal food, and this will adversely affect both their physical and mental health.

The situation is worsened by the restriction on visitors due to COVID-19, so family members are prevented from bringing in Halaal food.

I have alerted Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi to this matter and I hope she takes urgent action to ensure that Halaal food is available at the hospital.

Poor maintenance causes water shortage at Helen Joseph Hospital

Poor maintenance is to blame for the hundreds of patients who have suffered for days from a water shortage at the Helen Joseph Hospital.

Water to wards was cut off last week after a pipe burst, causing major disruption to medical services and distress to patients, including those in Covid-19 wards.

Patients did not have water to take their medicine or to drink and could not wash themselves.

Staff could not wash their hands and crucial equipment, including dialysis and CT-scans, could not be cleaned.

It was so bad that the public were called on to give donations of water.

The Gauteng Health Department has claimed that the problem is fixed but I continued to receive complaints of water shortages from distressed patients this weekend.

The tragedy is that the many years of management failure hinders our capacity to save lives in the present health crisis.

Long delay in completing new psychiatric wards at Helen Joseph hospital

The Democratic Alliance welcomes the announcement by Infrastructure Development MEC Tasneem Motara that the first wing of the new psychiatric wards at the Helen Joseph Hospital will be completed next week, but this is nearly three years overdue.

The renovation of the two 20-bed psychiatric wards started in November 2014, and was supposed to be done by August 2016.

Former Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa promised that it would be completed before March this year.

Meanwhile, mental patients have suffered in sub-standard facilities and the second 20-bed ward is further delayed as well.

It is appalling that mental health patients are still treated badly in Gauteng even after the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

I hope that MEC Motara takes firm steps to ensure that her department delivers future hospital projects on time and within budget.