Bheki Mashile's Letter from Umjindi

We need doctors who care

Well, you’ve got to give it to our health services; at least they don’t discriminate when they deny treatment or render a horrendous and insensitive service.

This point was driven home at the end of September, with news reports about an inquiry into claims that the murdered boxer, Corrie Sanders, was turned away from the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in central Pretoria after being shot, and referred to the “lower-level” Kalafong Hospital on the outskirts of the city. Steve Biko Academic is renowned for its specialist facilities.

And as we all know, Sanders succumbed to his gunshot wounds at Kalafong – where Gauteng Health Department spokesman Simon Zwane “believed” Sanders was given appropriate treatment. Presumably that is when he eventually got there.

This spin doctor should have just focused on first offering a word of condolence to the Sanders family before saying something like, “if in fact Mr Sanders was turned away at Steve Biko it raises great concern”. Short and sweet without accepting or denying anything.

However, I must say the Hawks spokesperson, McIntosh Polela, knows his craft – whereas that poor fella, Mac Maharaj needs to get a real job.

OK, enough of that; because the Sanders hospital turn-away matter seems to be quite a serious problem and I’m delighted it has received public exposure. Exactly how serious is it? Just looking at some of the complaints that have come to my attention – and I’m only a little guy in a little dorp – I would have to conclude that it is one of the biggest problems within our health care system.

Sylvia Lukhele

When I heard the news about Sanders having been turned away, my reaction was, not again, it’s happening all over the place! The latest story I’ve been working on is about how Sylvia Lukhele was turned away by Mpumalanga’s specialist hospital, Rob Ferreira, yes the same Rob that you read about in Noseweek’s last edition.

OK I’ll keep this short and sweet because I am yet to get a response from the Mpumalanga Health Department’s communications director, John Mlangeni.

Ms Lukhele was referred to Barberton Hospital to have her appendix removed after complaining of a lump in her stomach. Barberton Hospital operated and she spent two days there in recovery. On her release she was instructed by the hospital to go to a clinic to have the stitches removed. Now begins Ms Lukhele’s nightmare. For, two months after the stitches were removed, the operation wound had still not healed.

Barberton Hospital then sent her to Rob’s. There they did several tests (including a sonar scan to check whether any surgical instrument had been left inside her). Nothing was found and she was sent home.

Not too long after she was tested by Rob’s – a day or two, she says – her condition worsened: by now she had a bloated stomach, was vomiting and had diarrhoea. She was taken back to Rob’s by ambulance.

There, she says in a statement corroborated by a relative who accompanied her, a doctor examined her and squeezed the operated area, which oozed with puss. Seeing this the doctor said, “You have to go back to Barberton so they can fix their mistake”.

The only thing Barberton did was to fit Ms Lukhele with a waste bag (colostomy bag) – and this, only after the supporting relative raised holy hell with the department.

Back to Sanders: two statements were made as a result of his treatment; The Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) quickly reminded health care practitioners that they were obliged to stabilise patients in emergency situations.

“Section 27 of the Constitution, the National Health Act, as well as the HPCSA’s ethical guidelines clearly state that a health care provider may not refuse a person emergency medical treatment,” said CEO Dr Buyiswa Mjamba-Matshoba.

Do these stated obligations go far enough? What constitutes an emergency? Maybe a couple of bullets in you? Would a botched appendix operation qualify?

Try making sense of this: now that Rob’s chucked Ms Lukhele back to Barberton Hospital, they need to tell us what they are doing about her condition. Instead, according to Ms Lukhele and her supportive relative, they are ducking and diving from their “mistake”.

Our health care system needs more than the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme. It needs medical practitioners who are caring and sensitive.

And get this: there is talk of putting a medical tertiary institution at Rob’s which will be developed into a fully fledged medical school. How can that possibly be, when it is quite clear Rob’s cannot handle what it already has? These politicians or planners, whatever, need to stay away from the hospital pharmacy.

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Submitted by : Pete Swanepoel of MONTCLAIR on 2012-11-02 08:47:29
Our hospitals are schizophrenic: In the boardrooms, and in the rewards and promotions of staff, its all about profit; Then there's the PR department that says "We care" and puts out brochures and puts flowers in the plush foyer. The two sides never speak to one another, and the workers know if you want to keep your job (never mind advance), go the money-making and money-saving route.
We need the frontline workers to come clean and speak up, but their fear of being victimised (internationally, not just locally!) is very real.


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