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Northern Cape hospital severely short-staffed

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File Image: Matt Rourke, AP

Concern over the shortage of staff at district hospitals in the Northern Cape.

CARNARVON Hospital is severely short-staffed, where there are only two professional nurses on duty per shift.

One nurse has to attend to the maternity ward, paediatric ward and casualties, while the other nurse is assigned to the Covid-19 ward.

Staff have stated that although the facility was downgraded to a community health clinic it was still operating as a hospital.

“The security guards have to assist with patients as there is a shortage of staff. Only one ambulance is operating in the area,” the staff said.

“The hospital also has no water supply and buckets have to be used to wash patients and flush the toilets. It appears as if the water pipes freeze during winter, resulting in the water supply being cut off.

“Sections of the roof collapsed, where the water leaks onto the patients’ beds. Patients are also crammed into a ward due to a shortage of space.

“There are also holes in the floor and the air-conditioner is out of order.”

They added that there was an influx of patients following a Covid-19 outbreak in Loxton, Richmond, Carnarvon and Vanwyksvlei, where the available nurses were struggling to take care of all the patients.

“Doctors are also overworked and nurses are working double shifts. The Vanwyksvlei Clinic is closed and a nurse at Carnarvon Hospital was booked off sick, while another nurse is in quarantine.”

Kareeberg Municipality DA councillor Esau Hoorn said that two nurses were sent to assist at Carnarvon Hospital but left shortly afterwards, apparently due to non-payment.

“The hospital was closed in May due to a shortage of nurses, where the only employee on duty was a single security guard,” said Hoorn.

“The nurse on duty had to be called into the hospital whenever a patient arrived for medical assistance.”

Nehawu provincial secretary Moleme Moleme has meanwhile pointed out that De Aar Hospital is still operating without staff following the controversial death of Willemse van Syfer, who died in the Covid-19 ward.

“No improvement plans have been put in place,” said Moleme.

It is believed that Van Syfer was left unattended during the 7-8am shift, where staff members had left the shift before the relief staff had arrived.

Moleme stated that the shortage of staff at district hospitals in the Northern Cape was placing undue strain on referral hospitals in the Province.

“All health facilities in the Province have a shortage of staff. It cannot be attributed to budgetary constraints. We have been urging the Department of Health to fill priority vacant posts as a matter of urgency, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Staff are overworked, where their working conditions are deplorable.”

The bereaved Van Syfer family said that they had not been informed about the investigation into their loved one’s death.

“We have been left with so many questions, including the time of death on July 3. It is inhumane of the Department of Health to expect the family to just forget about our loss and suffering. We cannot just accept his death and blame negligence on Covid-19. Van Syfer would have been alive today if he received the proper medical treatment. How many people must die before decisive action is taken?”

The family members added that another patient had discharged herself due to the poor standard of care received.

Another patient died on June 15 after receiving treatment at the hospital.

The Northern Cape Department of Health did not respond to media enquiries.

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