Urgent intervention at Bloemfontein hospital

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The Health Department in the Free State has urgently intervened to address more than a month’s backlog in much-needed orthopaedic surgery at Pelonomi Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein.

Earlier reports indicated that more than 30 patients, who required surgery, at the province’s foremost trauma hospital have been waiting for months to go to theatre. Although the Department indicated that the backlog stands at 30, doctors at the hospital told Bloemfontein Courant the number could be double this.

Just a day before the visit of President Cyril Ramaphosa to the city for his Presidential Imbizo, the Department decided to intervene and organised a weekend blitz. This was confirmed by the spokesperson for the Health Department, Mondli Mvambi.

He said the Department pulled in staff from different hospitals to assist in operations scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Mvambi said in addition to this, some patients were transported to the Albert Nzula Hospital in Trompsburg. He said 17 surgeries were performed at Pelonomi Hospital as part of the blitz and another 17 were performed at the Albert Nzula Hospital.

A doctor at Pelonomi Hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says the problems that led to the backlog in orthopaedic surgery at Pelonomi Hospital far outweighed the shortage of specialists put forward by the Free State Health Department as the sole reason. He said there is a critical shortage of nurses, and it is impossible to schedule surgeries on a normal weekend or after-hours.

Due to the shortage, only one theatre can be used for all trauma cases. The revelations come after Mvambi’s plea to medical schools to train more specialists. Mvambi said the shortage of specialists was the reason for the backlog in orthopaedic surgery.

A chronic shortage of nursing staff, cleaning staff, anaesthetists, medical equipment and linen, and a backlog in maintenance are also contributing factors.

With the urgent intervention, the provincial headquarters, Bophelo House, redirected these much needed resources to address the backlog.

Medical workers, who went on strike about two months ago, also listed the conditions in the maternity and gynaecological ward as a health and safety risk in their memorandum of demands. The ward was converted into a building site almost a decade ago. Construction came to a standstill years ago, but the temporary partitions and half-built structures make the building hazardous.

Justine Fortuin

justine@mahareng.co.za