Protesting SANCO members demanded better services for patients and workers and an increase in the health budget, among other demands. Highlighting arduous challenges at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, SANCO Gauteng chairperson Chris Malematja said that one cleaner had to clean up to three wards, which was “unacceptable”.
“People are dying all the time here which is why as SANCO we are saying we want the health budget to be increased. Increasing the budget will empower this institution,” said Malematja.
Malematja said the hospital was short-staffed, yet so many nurses and doctors are unemployed. He encouraged all unemployed nurses and doctors to visit the hospital find work from next week Monday. He said the hospital was named after assassinated struggle icon Chris Hani, who died fighting for the rights of South Africans, including the right to decent health services.
Angel Ndaba, a SANCO member and hospital health care worker from Orange Farm, told Daily Maverick her grandson was operated on in a theatre at Chris Hani last week, yet there was no water.
“I had to wait for two hours while doctors contacted maintenance to find out how they could get access to water. My grandson, who had fallen and broken his wrist, was operated on the following night, and I don’t know how the doctors performed tasks such as scrubbing because there was no water.”
Ndaba said because there were no escorts to take her grandson to theatre, being a medical professional herself, she grabbed a stretcher and took her grandson to theatre herself. “Imagine how an old person would have struggled in that instance?” Ndaba asked.
Another burning problem is the issue of referrals from clinics. SANCO said there was a shortage of vehicles to transport patients to the Chris Hani Baragwanath and other hospitals in Soweto such as the Bheki Mlangeni District Hospital. The delays put the lives of patients at risk.
“We, the South African National Civic Organisation in Johannesburg region wish to raise the plight of doctors, nurses, staff, patients and the community at large. It has come to our attention that the hospital is in a dire state which has become a provincial and national problem. We want the health budget to be increased.”
“Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is the mainstay hospital for communities in Soweto and Southern Gauteng, including SADC countries,” said the memorandum.
It further said: “The hospital serves an important academic role in training healthcare workers in South Africa, producing medical doctors, medical specialists, nurses, allied health care workers, and is also a sought-after training centre by international medical specialists. It also runs world-class leading research centres in children’s vaccines and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission”.
In presenting their demands, SANCO said urgent interventions were required in resolving the following issues:
1. Shortage of staff: increase the number of doctors, nurses, cleaners, porters, security personnel and also the administration staff where necessary.
A: Hard-working volunteers working at the hospital should be considered for hospital absorption.
2. Medication supply: Adequate medication should be acquired on time so that patients do not suffer the adverse results of non-medication.
3. Maintenance: Working equipment should be timeously serviced, repaired or replaced with new equipment.
4. Transparency and equity in budget allocation: What happened to the R230 million that was transferred from CHBAH to bail Charlotte Maxeke JAH in 2013 when the hospital was facing an overspend?
The memorandum was received by health officials in the office of health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa. Thokozani Langa received the memorandum on behalf of the department of health.
Some staff at the hospital came out to join the protest and witness the handing over of the memorandum.
SANCO said if the demands fall on deaf ears, they will mobilise all their branches – over 130 – in the province.
SANCO also demanded state of the art equipment “so that nurses and doctors can effectively perform their work”.
Malematja added: “We want the MEC to come with a clear plan on how to save the hospital. We want more nurses and doctors. We want more security to be hired here. People from Soweto must be hired to work here as guards.”
Also invited was Incredible Happenings’ Prophet Paseka Motsoeneng, popularly known as Prophet Mboro. Mboro told the striking medical professionals that not a single senior politician or their families would seek medical care at the hospital “because they know this is a death trap”. Mboro said officials wouldn’t go a month without getting paid, yet staff at the hospital were expected to be understanding.
“The quality of health is reflected in patients’ experiences. We want the health budget to be increased, not only for this hospital but we all know that Bara reflects the national picture because of its size and the magnitude of the health services offered. Bara is the pulse of the health system in the country,” said Dr Bandile Masuku, who was a practising student at the hospital between 2007 and 2011 before he became a specialist.
He told Daily Maverick that 24,000 babies were delivered a year at the hospital. “We cannot talk about economic health when people are not well. We need more money and we need more doctors. We have unemployed medical professionals when health facilities such as Bara are short-staffed,” said Masuku.
SANCO Deputy Provincial Chair Oupa Hadebe said they had begun with the process of ensuring they deal with the pressing issues at the hospital because doctors had raised concerns. “All staff here have raised concerns,” said Hadebe.
A Soweto bystander, who was watching proceedings during the march, told Daily Maverick the hospital was notorious. “Ask anybody here in Soweto and they will tell you they don’t want to go to Bara because they might come back in a coffin.
“Forget that, perhaps it’s low staff morale resulting from all the frustration to medical professionals at the hospital but some staff at the hospital are rude and uncaring,” said 39-year-old Zodwa Mbuli.DM
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