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DA slams ‘heartless health service’


"If it was her ill child who was left to spend a cold night on a sponge mattress without supervision, I am sure she would not tolerate such heartless health service."

File image.

THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Health has rubbished accusations from the DA in the Province that patients staying at Harmony Home are exposed to inhumane conditions.

The DA said in a statement that, following an oversight visit to the facility, the department was unsympathetic to the needs of the patients.

DA spokesperson for Health, Dr Isak Fritz, said that patients at the facility were exposed to unhygienic conditions.

“The overnight ward for female patients saw 20 people having to share a single toilet. There also appeared to be no cleaners maintaining the facility and an elderly lady, who slept in the ward, took it upon herself to clean the filthy toilet.

“Meanwhile, a 14-year-old cancer patient from Victoria West, who was referred by Kimberley Hospital to Bloemfontein for chemotherapy, had to sleep on a yellow sponge mattress without any bedding.

“There is also no supervision in the ward, further placing young patients at risk,” said Fritz.

He added that patients were fed food that was not nutritious.

“Patients also complained that they receive low-quality, unappetising, watered-down food. This is clearly not appropriate for sick people, least of all cancer patients, who require a well balanced-diet as part of their treatment regime.”

Fritz said that the party would bring the matter to the attention of the MEC for Health, Fufe Makatong.

“The DA will write to the provincial MEC for Health, informing her of our findings and requesting that she institute an urgent intervention. If it was her ill child who was left to spend a cold night on a sponge mattress without a blanket and without supervision, I am sure she would not tolerate such heartless health service,” said Fritz.

The spokesperson for the provincial Department of Health, Lebogang Majaha, lambasted the DA’s claims, stating that the department is in the process of addressing challenges faced not only at Harmony Home, but other health facilities in the Province.

“As a ministry, we wish to make it clear to Dr Fritz that the MEC does not wait for the Democratic Alliance to issue a statement before she attends to health care issues at some of our facilities.

“Since her appointment as MEC for Health, she has been crisscrossing the Province to engage with staff at both district offices and health care facilities, to afford them an opportunity to raise their challenges and propose solutions that seek to turn around their situation for the better.

“These engagements were also meant to assist the department to develop a new turnaround strategy that MEC Makatong will be unpacking during this year’s budget vote presentation,” said Majaha.

He added that the increasing number of people escorting patients for medical treatment has posed a challenge to the number of people the facility can accommodate.

“The facility is able to cope with 35 people. But, increasingly we are finding that the facility is being overwhelmed with people who should not be there. We have an increasing number of people who attend as accompanying persons or chaperones to people coming for diagnosis or treatment. This is a challenge as they also want to be put up at Harmony Home, making the available space intolerable for those who need to be there.

“In reality, only vulnerable people like young patients, the elderly or infirm patients, as well as people with certain physical or mental disabilities, should be allowed to stay.

“We are told of some chaperones who are known to use the transport and accommodation for shopping trips. We must again educate our clients about the misuse of public resources at the expense of patients.”

Mahaja said that they are also in the process of addressing the issue of people taking advantage of the services provided by the department.

“In terms of the patients who are staying overnight, we are aware that we have some people who stay less than 250 kilometres from the city who also insist on staying overnight at the facility. We are working with the clinics and emergency services to limit those staying close to Kimberley from needing to stay overnight at the facility,” he said.