The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) would like to appeal to the Premier of Northern Cape, Dr Zamani Saul, to intervene on the perilous and crumbling quality of healthcare services provided to vulnerable people of Namaqua District and Kimberley Hospital caused by gross shortages of staff and resources, which are also exposing health workers to unending risks of litigations.
The Provincial Department of Health, through the offices of the HOD and the MEC, have opted to close their ears, offices and are avoiding to answer numerous phones calls from DENOSA provincial leaders over this matter. Furthermore, the HOD has threatened union officials and shop stewards with legal and disciplinary actions as an attempt to shut them down from raising these critical issues.
The state of healthcare in Namaqua District is a sorry and regrettable one to such that DENOSA wrote a letter to the Department six weeks ago, raising these urgent issues, and demanded that they be addressed by end of August. August came and passed with not a single solution to the challenges we have raised.
As a result, health workers from health facilities in Namaqua District have been picketing outside the District offices since Monday, demanding the hiring of health workers and procurement of the necessary equipment for the facilities.
Springbok District Hospital
Springbok Hospital, which is 800 kilometres from Kimberley and 400 kilometres away from Upington, operates with only one theatre nurse. In the labour ward at this hospital, there are only two professional nurses with no assistant nurses. There is only one professional nurse at the casualty unit. This low staff complement is a serious danger to the lives of patients in the area. For example, in May this year, a patient transport was involved in an accident in Springbok and 18 patients got injured and they had to be taken to Springbok Hospital where there is only one nurse in the casualty unit. Four patients had to be airlifted to Kimberley Hospital, 800 kilometres away (and where there’s a shortage of more than 50 nurses).
Not only this. The shortage of resources is demoralizing to nurses who have to pay, out of their own pockets and with no compensation, basic instruments like thermometers and other toiletries. They also have to phone for patient referrals from their own phones and airtime.
The theatre light at the hospital, which is very crucial during the performance of an operation on patients, has not been working for a long time and normal small bulbs have replaced this, which is compromising the quality of service to patients.
Clinics around Springbok
Clinics in and around Springbok are in as similar a state of paralysis as Springbok Hospital itself. Steinkopf Clinic was burnt down in November last year and nurses and operations had to be moved to a rented house which is old and grossly inadequate and an inconvenience to both nurses and patients. Patients could easily contract TB due to the condition of the house and the Department cannot do any renovations because the house is a rented one. Medication at the clinic is placed on the floor, and the supposed fridge that stores medication for immunization is the shadow of its former self and has melted and cannot function properly; and babies have to be delivered in the bathroom! At the clinic, patient privacy is also compromised because only a screen separates the waiting area and the consulting area, thus enabling everyone to listen when a patient is being consulted by the nurse.
In Kamiesberg, which is a sub-district of Namaqua, there has been no water supply from the local municipality in the whole area since the beginning of this year. In Kamieskroon, the only water supply to the clinic is from asbestos tanks. Again, this exposes both patients and nurses to risks of lung infection – there is no certainty if they have not contracted diseases already. In Nama Khoi at Nababeep CHC, the same situation exists where water is supplied to the facility from asbestos water tanks.
DENOSA has raised all these issues with the Department from as far back as six weeks ago with no positive response. On Monday, we were met by arrogant District Manager who became too defensive instead of talking about any solutions. This has done nothing but to harden the attitude of workers who are the ones exposed to the dangers of shortage of staff and resources in the workplace.
DENOSA is utterly disappointed by both the MEC and HOD in the province. We met with the MEC in June where a commitment was made by the department to hire more nurses. The meeting even allowed for DENOSA to assist in collating details and list of nurses who are unemployed, where we managed to collect more than 600 nurses who are looking for employment in Northern Cape. Now when we query about follow-up meeting with the MEC to finalise this process, she does not take phone calls from DENOSA.
A similar action was taken by workers at Kimberley Hospital yesterday where there is a shortage of staff as nurses who have been retiring and resigning have not been replaced.
It has come to DENOSA’s attention that since the beginning of this year, 40 doctors have resigned from Robert Mangaliso Sobukhwe Hospital (Kimberley Hospital) which has left the hospital in a dire situation and placing even more pressure on service delivery as well as the functions and duties of nurses.
This is the reason DENOSA pleads with the Premier to intervene, just for the sake of the people of Northern Cape. Or else the situation will just deteriorate further and more patients will be lost unnecessarily.
Issued by the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA)
For more information, contact:
Anthony Vassen, DENOSA Northern Cape Provincial Secretary
Mobile: 072 569 9838 Tel: 053 831 6372