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Nelson Mandela Bay community steps in as crises hit embattled Dora Nginza paediatric hospital

Nelson Mandela Bay community steps in as crises hit embattled Dora Nginza paediatric hospital
Dora Nginza Hospital in Gqeberha, Eastern Cape. (Photo:Deon Ferreira)

In the past two weeks, the 570-bed Dora Nginza Hospital, the centre for paediatric and maternity care in the western part of the Eastern Cape, ran out of nappies and baby formula — and cooks couldn’t feed patients because they were down to their last useable pot.

The Nelson Mandela Bay community had to step in to help after Dora Nginza Hospital — a specialist centre for maternal and paediatric care — ran out of nappies and formula due to “suppliers not delivering”. On top of that, the kitchen faced a major breakdown leading to interruptions in the food service.

The Eastern Cape Department of Health described this as a problem, not a crisis.

The executive mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay, Eugene Johnson, said in a statement that the failure of kitchen equipment had been reported to the department “for months”.

Sponsorships for food aid for the hospital were organised by Monty Uren, chairperson of the NMB District Business Community Police Board, his deputy, Nondomiso Peter, and Pastor Richard Keet, CEO of Soulstream radio station.

They managed to arrange the delivery of 40kg of maize meal, milk, coffee, tea, rice, 120 litres of warm soup, 80 loaves of bread, eight dozen rolls, bags of disposable nappies and sweets.

A meal at night, then bread only

Mayor Johnson said the hospital’s CEO, Patrick Tsibolane, had personally told her on 18 August that patients, especially the children, had received a meal at night, but for the rest of the day they were given bread only. 

In her statement, Johnson said Tsibolane maintained “there was not enough nutritionally valuable instant foods to use when pots break”.

Johnson’s office confirmed that the hospital kitchen had broken down “despite the CEO requesting urgent maintenance several times”, and that management had agreed that patients could be given bread as a crisis measure. 

Johnson and the African Independent Congress’s Thsonono Buyeye, who is the political head of the provincial health department, visited the hospital earlier this week.

In a statement, Johnson said there was sufficient food, but not enough “kitchen equipment, including pots, cutlery and kitchen staff”.

“The MMC [Buyeye] and I wanted to see if what is circulating around social media is true, and I am pleased to say there is enough food and the mechanics are busy fixing the pots,” Johnson said. Buyeye said he was happy to see the problems faced by the kitchen staff at Dora Nginza were being addressed.

Nappy donations

MK Ndamase, the spokesperson for Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth, said they had received donations of nappies from churches and other organisations.

“In the delivery of health services, the department has continued to improve the quality of health and care that we offer to the millions of people who rely on the public sector for their health needs,” said Ndamase.

“Partnerships and collaborations are the way to go in these tough economic times, worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic that not only caused devastation in the Eastern Cape, but the world over.

“The department will continue working with businesses, NGOs, the religious fraternity, traditional leaders, civil society and communities, as was the case during the pandemic.”

How the Eastern Cape health system is failing residents

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This is just the latest crisis to hit a state hospital in Nelson Mandela Bay, as clinical staff battle extreme staff shortages, dysfunctional equipment and medicine shortages

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The health department is facing several “supply” issues due to non-payment, including the provision of orthopaedic implants and certain medicines, but Ndamase said the nappy and formula shortage was a supplier issue and not a payment issue. He did not respond to a question on whether the suppliers would be held accountable.

“As an interim measure, hospital management sourced minimal stock from other hospitals. We are happy to announce that the situation is now back to normal as the nappies have been delivered.”

Concerning the lack of baby formula, Ndamase said this was also due to suppliers not delivering on time, but denied it was a crisis. The hospital has a breastmilk bank. He said they had also managed to secure formula from other hospitals. He said there had been stock since 18 August. 

Responding to claims on social media that nappies and formula were being stolen at the hospital, Ndamase said there was no evidence of this: “We invite anyone with evidence of theft to come forward and report it to management so that action could be taken against anyone found to be in the wrong. Whistle-blowers’ anonymity is guaranteed.”

Pot shortage

He said the problems in the kitchen couldn’t be labelled as a “crisis”. He confirmed that there was one remaining working pot that kitchen staff were refusing to use until management spoke to them. 

Ndamase said three pots were now functional. 

“A service provider is still busy with the fourth. It was a minor problem that was swiftly addressed, working with other stakeholders like the municipality.”

‘We decided if we die, we will die in the line of duty’ – PE hospital doctors keep maternity unit going against all odds

The problems at Dora Nginza Hospital seem to be never-ending. The maternity ward, which remains seriously understaffed, was almost paralysed as many nurses became ill or left. It was kept going by the heroics of a small team of doctors during Covid, as the hospital was flooded with patients when community maternity units closed down. DM/MC


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