The Free State health department says it is attending to all issues within the Pelonomi Hospital, despite allegations that patients have been left in desperate need of attention and staff downed tools to protest staff shortages.
Workers at the province’s largest hospital apparently protested last week after it emerged that only 13 new nurses would be employed, despite 91 vacancies existing. This allegedly led to the hospital’s maternity ward temporarily being closed.
Democratic Alliance shadow health minister Patricia Kopane complained that although the government had reacted to the strike by promising to employ 13 more people, only eight had been on duty during her oversight inspection yesterday morning.
She said the maternity ward has since been reopened, but still grapples with the issue of staff shortages.
However, provincial department of health spokesperson Mondli Mvambi said “the maternity ward never shut down, despite the strike. We had agency nurses that we contracted and doctors expanded their scope of work. We employed eight nurses out of the 13 agreed upon.
“These were eight professional nurses and we had outstanding five posts of one staff nurse and four assistant nurses.
“We interviewed these categories and selected the best that could start immediately. The delay has been on the part of the nurses and we are assured that this five will start [on Tuesday].”
He went to say: “We are attending to all issues that will enable Pelonomi to be the most efficient health facility in our province and country. We have appointed a CEO and have sorted out the management structure. We are strengthening the health-care facilities.”
Mvambi also said the department being put under administration for over five years, had made it difficult for them to manage human resources.
“Being put under administration delays our ability to replace personnel. We go through a lengthy process of approval from the department of the premier and provincial treasury and as a result we miss on critical time it takes to immediately fill vacancies… we are happy that we have been given the ability to appoint personnel and close vacancies.
“Our schedule is still on course to appoint the 33 nurses in the period of three months and the about 58 other personnel in the other categories of allied health workers will be filled as time goes, depending on the discretion of management.”
Health trade union Hospersa’s vice-president of education and training Joyce Kumalo said: “Hospersa members still report the shortage in this department as sometimes there are only two professional nurses on duty instead of four.
“Hospersa is very disappointed in the agreement of signing 13 nurses out of the 91 on the database. The current employment does not even match the nurse-patient ratio of 1:5 which is the international standard.”
Chisom Jenniffer Okoye