No end in sight for medical staff shortage

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The shortage of medical staff in the country remains a concern, as there are 21 000 posts that still need to be filled by provincial departments of health countrywide.

DA member of the Portfolio Committee on Health, Michéle Clarke tells OFM News that the National Department of Health has not communicated when they will be in a position to fill these posts. She also stated that in the country, there are less than three doctors to care for one thousand patients within the public health sector.

Clarke further explains that there are over 21 500 shortages of nursing staff in the country. The North West Department of Health is one of the provinces that has recently been under scrutiny for shortage of staff and medication at the Kgakala Clinic outside Wolmaransstad.

The departmental spokesperson, Tebogo Lekgethwane, confirmed that they are aware of the shortage of health professionals and a sporadic shortage of medical items. However, he stated that the situation has improved since the department was placed under administration by the national government – following allegations of financial mismanagement and failure for service delivery.

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OFM News previously reported that in the Free State, there is a critical shortage of nurses at the largest trauma hospital in the province, Pelonomi Hospital. The doctor, who spoke to OFM News and Bloemfontein Courant anonymously, stated the shortage is even worse after hours and on weekends. Due to the shortage of nurses only one theatre can be used for all trauma cases.

There is also a shortage of medical accessories such as syringes and protective clothing, as well as a backlog in equipment maintenance and a shortage of linen. The staff shortage also affects not only nurses but security guards and cleaners. Doctors and nurses apparently have to step in regularly to get the theatre ready for the next operation.

Early this year the Free State Department of Health stated they have begun the process of interviewing anaesthetists and orthopaedic specialists who will come and bolster the hospital’s capacity at different levels of care.

This was after patients complained about having to wait for a long period of time to get operated on.

In response, the departmental spokesperson, Mondli Mvambi said the staff at the hospital are also overwhelmed by the huge demand for orthopaedic services due to high volumes of cases of trauma, violence and injury, which requires more theatre space, time and resources.

OFM News/Corn Koteli