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Hospital staff highlights crisis

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The employees, including doctors, nurses and general workers, said that services at the hospital have been affected by a 'serious, chronic shortage of staff'.

Dozens of employees from the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley on Tuesday took their frustrations, over what they call a chronic shortage of staff, to the Northern Cape Department of Health.

DOZENS of employees from the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley on Tuesday took their frustrations, over what they call a “chronic shortage of staff”, to the Northern Cape Department of Health.D

The employees, including doctors, nurses and general workers, said that services at the hospital have been affected by a “serious, chronic shortage of staff,” which they stated was putting immense pressure on existing staff members.

Members of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), yesterday joined staff belonging to the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa), the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and the Public Servants Association at the office of the HOD.

“We are here to raise our frustrations regarding the dire shortage of staff at the hospital,” they said.

“We are facing a serious, and chronic shortage of staff in departments across the board – not just doctors and nurses, but also general workers including cleaners,” they added.

According to union members 41 doctors had resigned since the start of 2019, mostly due to the “unbearable working conditions” they had to endure as a result of staff shortages. They also indicated that the shortage of nurses was becoming “critical”.

“The shortage of staff at the hospital is becoming a disaster, with not only the remaining staff members suffering as a result of being overworked and being under excessive pressure, but also the patients, who are not getting the services they need.”

They were under the impression that there was a “deliberate attempt” not to fill vacant positions.

“We have heard that there is a moratorium on the filling of posts, but we are making a desperate call on the HOD to lift that moratorium and fill posts as a matter of urgency. This hospital is heading for a disaster and we need to act swiftly to save what can still be saved,” they said.

Provincial manager of the PSA, Steve Ledibone, said that protest action could be avoided.

“While the shortage of manpower is a major challenge, we have advised our members not to embark on any illegal strike action. It is unacceptable for patients who rely on public health services to be turned away.”

He added that similar protests took place at the Galeshewe Day Hospital, in Barkly West, the Aggeneys Clinic and the Springbok Hospital.

“Workers have downed tools because they are overworked and frustrated. The Department of Health should be ashamed if it does not have the funds to fill vacant posts. If the department cannot even manage existing facilities, how will it implement the National Health Insurance fund,” Ledibone asked.

The DA in the Province said the decision by frustrated staff members to “bring services at the hospital to a standstill” was a clear sign that the risk of a total collapse of provincial health services was growing.

“The nurses have valid concerns. They are overworked and constantly exposed to litigation due to the conditions that they are forced to work under. Some of them have not even received overtime or night stipends that are due to them. This is wrong.

‘The Northern Cape MEC of Health, Mase Manopole, has to urgently address these challenges or otherwise prepare for a complete collapse of state health care. She has to hurry because time is running out,” DA provincial leader, Andrew Louw, said.

“We acknowledge that the MEC has called on retired nurses to again join the state health sector, but we are not seeing results. Appointments are simply not being made at the RMS Hospital and across the Province, despite there already being a shortage of 1 556 professionals nurses in the Northern Cape.”

He added that sick and most vulnerable people were ultimately being denied basic health care or being exposed to adverse events, due to a dire lack of capacity at hospitals and clinics across the Province.

“The Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital has, for a long time, been implementing theatre cuts as a result of a shortage of nursing staff at the facility. This, in turn, causes patient backlogs and a delay medical care for seriously ill patients.”

Louw urged the department to urgently review its human resource allocations to avoid losing professional health workers.

The Northern Cape Department of Health failed to respond to media inquiries.

The Northern Cape Department of Health stated yesterday that the issue of the filling of posts was an internal matter and the department was handling it accordingly.