ELIZABETH DONKIN PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL OVERCROWDING CREATES PERFECT ENVIRONMENT FOR SUICIDE

Last night’s (08/04/2012) suicide of a patient at Elizabeth Donkin Psychiatric Hospital is the second in as many months that could have been avoided if the department took overcrowding and lack of professional staffing seriously.

No matter which way the Eastern Cape Department of Health’s (EC DoH) spin-doctor Sizwe Kupelo spins it, the two recent suicides at an institution that has a past record of one to two suicides per decade is clear proof that overcrowding is having a direct effect on the patients’ wellbeing and the ability of the clinical and nursing staff to do their jobs effectively.

Within the psychiatric industry it is known that a suicide in a ward significantly increases the risk of other patients deciding to take the same route. It is one of the reasons why the population of psychiatric wards are kept smaller than those of general medical wards. So when you have a 32 bed ward with over 60 patients in it, suicide can in a sense become a highly infectious “disease”.

It is known that the Elizabeth Donkin Psychiatric Hospital has been instructed not to turn any patients away. An instruction such as this to a hospital already at over-capacity has a direct effect on the wellbeing of all the patients within it. It is imperative that the department changes this directive and either renovates to increase the bed capacity of the hospital, or seeks alternative medical accommodation for the patients that can be accommodated off-site.

The physical environment created by overcrowded wards also makes it virtually impossible for even the most efficient and passionate clinical and nursing staff to notice the signs within a patient that usually surfaces before an impending suicide. However, the fact that the EC DoH has allowed a vacancy rate of over 27,000 essential clinical and nursing staff in the province, created the fact that we are sitting with overcrowded wards that are severely understaffed.

The outlook on life is already bleak for a patient with suicidal tendencies, but add to that the fact that he has to sleep on the floor in an overcrowded ward and that there are not enough doctors and nurses to see to his immediate treatment needs, exacerbates his problems exponentially.

Because of the need to accommodate extra patients, this hospital does not have the space to keep the nursing stations in the wards, which infinitely decreases the nursing staff’s ability to keep a watchful eye over the patients.

I will be submitting Parliamentary Questions to the MEC of Health to ascertain exactly how many of the provincial hospitals in the province are risking the lives of patients due to overcrowding because of neglected infrastructural backlogs. I will also be writing to the SG, Dr. Siva Pillay to put an immediate stop to the directive that forces overcrowding at the Elizabeth Donkin Psychiatric Hospital.

It is extremely myopic that the ANC-led government saw it fit to decrease the provincial Health budget for the second year in a row. In any advanced and growing society health care is a delivery and financial priority, but in the Eastern Cape, it’s just ANC lip service.

3 comments on “ELIZABETH DONKIN PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL OVERCROWDING CREATES PERFECT ENVIRONMENT FOR SUICIDE
  1. Hein Johnson says:

    Hi John
    The Elizabeth Donkin hospital is in a state collapse for the last 10yrs and it is just getting worse by the day, one section was set alight by a pasient some 3yrs ago and has never been repaired. It is shocking to use a nice word that we as the DA also just except the state of our health department without real action. Asking and raising questions at parliamentary level whilst people are ill-treaded or dying is not going to improve any hospital. What action do you as the DA health representative have in place to counter act the ANC’s lip service answer you highlighted already as the answer you will recieve?
    What steps has been put in place to seriously adress these issues?
    Have we laid an official complaint at the Word Healh Organization?
    Have we raised the issue with the Inrenational Court of crimes against humanity?
    Or are we just going thru the motions of our daily office job?
    Seriously we as the DA must stop raising questions and the ANC goverment because we all no the answer even before we ask the questions, we are investigating, we have created a task team to investigate and the best one we have appointed an independed auditor to investigate.

    These are all just smoke screens and mirrors to deviate the attention away from the real issue at hand, we all know that these reports never make any changes or nobody is actually held accountable for anything.

    Be bold and take responsibility and be acountable to your voters and stand-up and be counted!!!!

  2. John Cupido MPL says:

    Hi Mr Johnson,

    Please don’t make the mistake and think that the work and what we do stops at asking Parliamentary Questions.
    A parliamentary question is a useful tool that helps us bring out information not readily available from the department and in answering questions that commits the department to a time-frame and/or action, the MEC (that signs the reply) is bound to doing so. They are not just willy nilly questions. Because the MEC signs the replies, which are open to the public, it significantly increases the chances of getting information that are reflective of the situation at hand.

    I am, in fact, going through the motions of my daily job. But no sir, it is not an office job. I have already made a personal unscheduled visit to Elizabeth Donkin Hospital to see the state of affairs for myself, I have met with the Hospital manager, staff members and have communicated with the Friends of the Donkin group. From here I take all the information that I have gathered, prioritized the immediate infrastructural needs (including refurbishment of the ward that was burnt down) and the severe under staffing concerns and will be raising them with the department and my Health Portfolio Committee as we meet over the next few weeks to debate the incoming budget. I have already started lobbying other members of the committee as to the immediate needs of the EDH and intend to garner support to secure more of the already severely overextended and insufficient infrastructure part of the budget.
    I will continually drive this issue until the MEC or department submits and addresses my concerns. These are the motions of my daily “office” job.

    I have done this also for Dora Nginza and Komani Hospitals. And bearing in mind that I have only had this portfolio for a few months, I do realise the task that I have in hand to cover the rest of the hospitals in the province.

    I have already reported the EC Department of Health to the Human Rights commission and will continually do so until they are investigated. But I can assure you, the HRC, WHO and ICC have wheels that turn just as slowly as they do here in SA.

    Please be cognisant of the fact that I do the same for issues within the several other entities in my other portfolio.

    We need voters like yourself to mobilize those around ourselves to go out to vote and to vote properly, so that we have more than the 6 out of 63 members here to have at least on per portfolio and to hold enough votes to affect change in the house, till then what we do is having a positive effect to the citizens of the province and is continuously saving hundreds of millions of Rands for taxpayers.

    You must remember my party does not lead government here in this province yet and our role is to identify and expose service delivery issues, provide alternative solutions and drive DA policy. Until we have enough seats, I beg of you to tell me how we can do more.

    A complaint to the WHO and ICC is taken just as seriously coming from a citizen like yourself as it is coming from me.

    Please feel free to contact my office with any suggestions and I will undoubtedly take them into consideration.

  3. caren says:

    GET RID OF THE STAFF THAT ARE THERE JUST FOR THE MONEY AND THE HEAD OF THE HOSPITAL AS HE OR SHE IS NO MANAGER IF HE OR SHE ALLOWS HER STAFF TO CARRY ON LIKE THIS!!! PUT STAFF AND A MANAGER THERE THAT HAVE THE PATIENTS INTEREST AT HEART