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Premier brushes off mental hospital fiasco

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Northern Cape Premier Dr Zamani Saul brushed off questions relating to the deteriorating Kimberley Mental Health Hospital, five years after labelling it a ‘monument of corruption’ when he officiated at its opening in 2019.

The grounds of the Kimberley Mental Health Hospital are heavily overgrown. Picture: Soraya Crowie

NORTHERN Cape Premier Dr Zamani Saul brushed off questions relating to the deteriorating Kimberley Mental Health Hospital, five years after labelling it a “monument of corruption” when he officiated at its opening in 2019.

Following his re-election for a second term last week, the premier instructed the media to “call the MEC for Health to respond” to enquiries about the controversial health facility.

Saul pointed out that “people were arrested” in connection with the ballooning costs of constructing the hospital.

It took 13 years, four different contractors and over R2 billion to complete the state-of-the-art facility, which has since fallen into a state of neglect.

A contravention notice was issued in May due to occupational health and safety concerns.

Many areas of the facility remain unoccupied amid a dire shortage of staff and nurses.

Many areas of the hospital are not being utilised. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Without a continuous supply of electricity, the pharmacy cannot store medication in cold storage and bodies will be left to rot in the mortuary.

The sub-station continuously falls prey to cable theft and vandalism, while the hospital is plunged into darkness whenever the generator malfunctions or runs out of diesel.

Contractors arrived on site last week to install two generators. Picture: Soraya Crowie

While a temporary generator switches on between 8am and 1pm and in the evenings from 6pm until 4am, it was reported that it was unreliable as there was often no power during the night and over weekends.

Public Servants Association (PSA) provincial manager Steve Ledibane said the Department of Health committed to building a new power station along the R31 and procuring two new generators.

“This could take some time to complete and there does not appear to be much haste. The biggest problem is at night when staff members have to make use of their cellphones as a source of light,” said Ledibane.

He added that the faulty old generator, which was leaking diesel, had been “borrowed from somewhere”.

The Kimberley Mental Health Hospital is struggling with a lack of essential resources and staff. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Patriotic Alliance (PA) MPL Sharifa Ferris stated that patients made use of a bucket as 30 patients had to share the one toilet that was working.

“The same bucket is apparently used by patients to bathe in with cold water. There are no cleaning materials to clean the bathrooms. There is sewage overflowing outside and the stench is overwhelming,” said Ferris.

She pointed out that a patient was sleeping on the floor in a spot of sunlight that was shining through the window, to warm himself as there were no blankets.

Many of the toilets are apparently out of order. Picture: Soraya Crowie

DA MPL Isak Fritz added that the grounds were heavily overgrown after the maintenance contract ended in 2022.

“There are no artisans on site and, as a result of the centralisation of finances, it is a struggle to effect the most basic maintenance, such as attending to leaking roofs and unblocking drains,” said Fritz.

“With only 153 beds out of 287 being operationalised to date, the grand multibillion-rand hospital is functioning at 53 percent capacity.

“Children with mental conditions who are in conflict with the law are accommodated at places of safety, where patient safety incidents were reported. Young children are at risk as they have to share wards with adults at the hospital.”

Fritz believed that it was unlikely that the 17-bed child and adolescent ward would be opened “any time soon” as it would cost the department an estimated R24 million.

“The hospital has a current annual budget of R106 million.”

The hospital cannot operate at full capacity due to a shortage of staff. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Fritz indicated that there were only two psychiatrists at the residence as well as a shortage of security and general staff at the hospital.

He added that they had requested the auditor-general to investigate a Carte Blanche exposé regarding the purchase of a golf cart for R500,000, a R140,000 quad bike and the procurement of linen, or pyjamas, at around R5,000 per set, despite blankets and pillow cases being non-existent.

It was also reported that the quad bike used to patrol the grounds is broken.

The golf cart that transports people to and from the gate. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Department of Employment and Labour spokesperson Teboho Thejane said that following an inspection of the premises, after a complaint that was reported by the Public Servants Association, a contravention notice was served on the mental hospital in line with occupational health and safety regulations.

“The main goal was to inform the employer or responsible party about the specific non-compliance issues and to mandate corrective actions within a specified time frame,” said Thejane.

He explained that the generator, biometric system and other systems did not pose an immediate threat, although they required fixing.

“The inspection was conducted on all facilities of the hospital.”

Thejane stated that other than roof leakages, no other structural defects were identified.

“These leakages were not considered to pose an imminent danger, as there is no contact with any electrical cables.”

The Department of Health did not respond to media enquiries at the time of publication.

One of the many unoccupied areas of the hospital. Picture: Soraya Crowie

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