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City hospital only performing ‘life or death’ surgeries


Concern over “lack of oxygen and contaminated water” at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital

Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital. File picture: Soraya Crowie

ONLY “life or death” surgeries are being performed at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital (RMSH) in Kimberley, apparently due to a lack of oxygen and clean water supplies.

Reliable sources stated that oxygen supplies had run out, where there was not sufficient oxygen for ventilators for Covid-19 patients and narcotic machines, despite millions of rand being allocated for Covid-19 support in the Province in March.

The waiting list for elective and emergency surgeries and beds is increasing, while there was reported to be a shortage of beds for Covid-19 patients.

“Patients are suffering and lives are at stake,” the sources said.

It was also stated that medical staff, doctors and nurses were “burnt out” due to a lack of staff, support and resources.

Notices were put up at the hospital in a memorandum that was dated April 21, advising that the water supply was contaminated at three blocks at the hospital, as well as the mortuary, administration block, accident and emergency unit.

It was indicated that the water could only be used to flush the toilets.

DA spokesperson for health Dr Isak Fritz stated that routine water sampling was conducted by environmental health practitioners about a month ago, where it was found that the tap water supplying a number of blocks at the hospital was contaminated.

“We requested the water at the hospital to be tested again last week and the water is still contaminated. Laundry cannot be done and ill patients are being placed at risk,” said Fritz.

“It is very worrying that patients and staff were still using the water up until almost the end of April. We wonder how many people may have consumed this contaminated water, or suffered adverse effects as a result.

“There have long been concerns about the quality of the water from the hospital’s reservoir and storage tanks. As if the frequent municipal-induced water cuts are not enough of a disruption, the facility has to struggle without a clean water supply in the midst of a pandemic. Hygiene practices are of utmost importance to ensure infection control.”

Fritz questioned what contaminants were discovered in the water and how the contamination occurred.

“The last thing the hospital needs now is a self-inflicted outbreak on top of Covid-19. We are still awaiting answers from Sol Plaatje Municipality and the Department of Health on how it is ensuring that the whole facility has access to clean water.”

The spokesperson for the Northern Cape Department of Health, Lebogang Majaha, said that the hospital was preparing for a third wave of Covid-19 infections.

“The hospital has over the past few months to date treated 12,494 Covid-19 positive cases. As part of preparing for a possible third wave and reducing pressure on clinical care, a plan was developed to reduce pressure on clinical demands as an attempt to have resources redirected towards treatment of patients who require critical care, especially those who tested positive for Covid-19 and require hospital care. This plan also caters for all emergency and urgent admissions, normally referred to as red cases,” said Majaha.

He added that the hospital was equipped with 54 beds that were dedicated for the care of Covid-19 patients, with 10 beds for high care and six beds for the intensive care unit.

“It should be noted that RMSH is a referral facility and there is also a considered effort by all hospitals in the Province to respond to this pandemic.”

Majaha said the hospital had a 25-ton oxygen tank that supplied the entire facility.

“We furthermore make use of the oxygen cylinders in a case of an emergency. The oxygen levels are monitored through a tele-matrix system between the department and Afrox. The tank is usually filled twice a week depending on the levels.”

He explained that a major oxygen upgrade was under way, where the project commenced about a month ago.

“Testing took place on April 27, which included, amongst others, pumping the oxygen from the main tank through the newly upgraded vents of the oxygen bank. This resulted in some technical glitches that we are busy sorting out. We can report that we are slowly seeing the rise in the temperature levels after a second re-test that took place this morning and currently pumping to all oxygen points in critical areas.”

Majaha stated that oxygen levels appeared to have been restored to normal as of 2pm yesterday.

“The levels will be closely monitored by our technical workshop. While we recognise the discomfort that these upgrades could cause, it is deemed necessary to ensure continuous patient care, especially with the high oxygen demands that we have witnessed since the recent increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in the wake of the much anticipated third wave.

“Patient care remains a priority for the department; there are also mobile oxygen cylinders that can be activated if need arises.”