Health-e News Service - February 14, 2012
The Gauteng Health Department has acknowledged that it has
serious staff shortfalls. Addressing the issue of Chris Hani
Baragwanath Academic Hospital, the provincial Health MEC admitted
that there are insufficient trained theatre nurses working in the
maternity ward of the facility.
Following a report about new born babies dying at the Chris Hani
Baragwanath Academic Hospital (CHB) due to negligence of hospital
staff, Bara management have come out and admitted that there is a
crisis. Gauteng Health MEC, Ntombi Mekgwe, says there is a
critical shortage of trained theatre nurses working at the
"Yes, we agree that we generally have a shortage of nurses. At
the moment, there are 20 trained specialists in theatre nursing,
with the additional five from the minister", Mekgwe says.
"In terms of the shift system in theatre, we have four shifts and
all of them have five people per shift and if you run a normal
theatre, we need six. This means in every shift we are short of
one nurse", she adds, painting a picture of the staff shortage.
The national Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi recently
intervened and sent five theatre staff from the military health
service to alleviate the nursing shortage at Chris Hani Bara's
maternity section. Deputy CEO of the hospital, Dr Pungie Lingham,
says despite the staff shortage, the number of still-births at
the hospital has remained constant over the last three years.
"The percentages of still births in 2009 against total deaths are
three percent, then it went to 2.7 % and in 2011 it was 2.8 %. If
you compare 2011 third quarter to 2009 third quarter, we actually
have less number of still births in this quarter of 2011 compared
to 2009. Even though there have been difficulties in highly
trained specialised nurses, the impact on the number of still
births has not been significantly affected. If anything, it's
less", explains Dr Lingham.
Meanwhile, services have been severely disrupted in many Gauteng
hospitals as suppliers of services and medical products stopped
their supplies due to the inability of the provincial health
department to pay for services rendered.
At an urgent meeting held this week between senior clinicians and
officials of the National Health Department, a consensus was
reached that services would be restored. Concerned doctors say
the absence of key tools and equipment hinders them from
providing a quality service to the public.
The National Health Laboratory Service, NHLS, is owed over
R2billion and the facility has resorted to closing down some of
their sites in Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal. Chairperson of the
Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Nonkosi Khumalo, says the
closure of the health labs has put the lives of HIV-positive
patients at risk.
"People have been calling our offices and we have been to some of
the sites that have challenges, like Kaalfontein clinic in
Tembisa, Eastbank clinic in Alexandra and ART clinic in Edenvale.
These are clinics that started saying to us: 'We are just not
coping because we can't do monitory laboratory tests, we can't
initiate people on treatment unless we know what their CD4 counts
are, we can't screen for TB because we won't get the results",
She says they are ready to take the Health Department to court
should services not be restored. Khumalo says the problem of
unpaid bills has been occurring for far too long and it needs
"We are at the moment considering litigation. Something has to
happen and it has to happen now. This has been going on forever.
We didn't just find out about it", she says.
The NHLS has over 7 000 people on their payroll. Although there
is no current threat of job losses, CEO Dr Sagie Pillay, says the
mood is very low in the organisation and his staff is fearful
that they may soon be out of jobs. He says his main priority at
the moment is reassuring them that retrenchments are not eminent.
"However much I and my executive team try and reassure frontline
staff, the media reports and the fact that those suppliers are
shutting us off daily, makes it difficult. Appointments are being
frozen, we don't have reagents in the labs, creditors are not
being paid... How will you, in that environment, despite our best
efforts... how do you build confidence that there is a future for
you? With 7 200 staff... this sort of thing you cannot
communicate in a memo. You have to do by word of mouth, otherwise
people are not going to take you seriously", says Dr Pillay.