CRITICALLY ill people have had to walk seven flights of stairs for medical attention as Port Elizabeth’s Provincial Hospital lifts stood still for weeks after the Department of Health fell behind in paying companies to repair them.
In one incident towards the end of last month, a cancer patient allegedly died while being carried up seven flights of stairs on a stretcher.
Eastern Cape health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo confirmed on Friday that the reason for the great number of broken lifts in the hospital was a payment dispute.
“When money isn’t paid the company refuses to respond to a request for emergency repairs,” Kupelo said.
He said the department’s head office had since intervened and would ensure payment was made.
Broken lifts have an impact not only on patients who cannot walk to wards but also on deliveries of food and medicine.
At one stage, people waited up to 15 minutes for the single working lift in P-block at the hospital.
The lift in M-block in the hospital is the only one servicing one neurology and two cancer wards.
“Compelling critically ill patients to walk up seven flights of stairs for treatment is completely unacceptable,” Igazi Foundation spokesman Cole Cameron said.
The foundation provides support for patients with blood cancers at the Haematology Ward on the seventh floor of the hospital.
Cameron said one of the cancer patients had died while being carried up the stairs.
The majority of the lifts in P-block were also not working for months.
The Department of Health did not respond to a request for comment on the death of the patient.
The DA’s Celeste Barker said the Department of Health should stop trying to save face by pretending that everything was fine when it was not.
“That doesn’t help. We are furious,” she said.
“The Department of Health deals with real people. Of course the lifts in the hospital must be in working order.”
Spokesman Simlindele Mnqina said the Coega Development Corporation formerly managed the maintenance at state hospitals but was no longer contracted by the Department of Health to do so. — Ellise@tisoblackstar.co.za