Conditions at strained FS hospital ‘have not improved’

The nursing staff at the Mofumahadi Manapo Mopeli Regional Hospital in Phuthaditjhaba maintain the conditions at the Free State hospital have not improved since they handed over a memorandum of demands to hospital management in June 2019.

A staff member has anonymously turned to political parties for assistance, further criticising the health department for their inaction in dealing with the problems affecting the facility. The staff member alleges people are dying as a result of the dire conditions, which the provincial health department is yet to do something about.

In reaction to these allegations, the health department re-released a statement on an alleged vandalism incident that left an electrical substation at the hospital damaged on Monday, September 16, implying that this is the cause of the persisting problems at this facility.

The hospital has not only been left to run on an emergency generator for sustained periods of time, but critical patients have had to be transferred to surrounding health facilities because the department deemed it too dangerous to perform surgeries as a result of the electrical problem. The department has not addressed the memorandum handed to hospital management on 26 June 2019, which lists a shortage of health workers and nurses that were brought in but were later redirected to Dihlabeng hospital, and a shortage of linen and working equipment as issues affecting them and patients daily. The issue of infection control at the facility has also been a problem, something which the DA in the province has complained about to the South African Human Rights Commission in January 2019.

This is not the first time this year that the hospital – labelled one of the largest in the Free State – has been forced to run on an emergency generator. In July 2019, the health department spokesperson, Mondli Mvambi, distanced the department from frequent power outages plaguing the facility at that stage, further refuting allegations that the hospital was forced to rely on candles to keep the hospital alight. He says the hospital has purchased a generator to keep the hospital going, this is, however, not without its own challenges. “What we have is a generator that is supposed to be running for four hours when that generator is stretched for too long, it may affect services.”

Mvambi says the department and hospital staff are doing their part by continuing to attend to patients and switching off the generator for refuelling. He says despite their efforts, the hospital cannot continue to run on a generator frequently as it really is for emergencies, “we need the reliable provision of electricity to the hospital”.

It is important to note that the provincial government has officially appointed, Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality’s power utility, Centlec, to assist debt-ridden Maluti-A-Phofung Local Municipality in rendering services to its community, assisting with the provision of electricity to the area, repair of vandalised substations and the replacement of damaged transformers. Phuthaditjaba falls under this municipality.