SEVERAL positive changes have been effected at Queenstown’s Komani Psychiatric Hospital since a Daily Dispatch exposé detailed atrocious conditions there.
A sense of hope has been injected into the hospital’s corridors and staff members spoke of the pride they felt as they witnessed some drastic changes taking place over the past week.
Gone were the thin sponge mattresses on the floor (“floorbeds”) on which some patients had to sleep. Instead, neat rows of secondhand beds donated by Grahamstown’s Fort England Psychiatric Hospital now furnish the ward.
Mkhuseli Nyengane, a nurse at the facility, said the beds had added a significant and positive change to the lives of patients since they were brought in on Friday. “They (beds) might look like a small gesture but it’s a big deal to (the patients),” he said.
“Those mattresses were not comfortable at all and I’m still puzzled by how their use was justified.”
Most patients in the ward were wearing branded hospital clothing and new-looking shoes compared to the old and dirty clothes they had been forced to wear due to a dysfunctional laundry.
The laundry is now functioning better and any overflow is outsourced for cleaning.
Security at the main gate has also been tightened, with visitors being made to register their names and have their cars checked on entry, which was previously not the case.
A private company has also been hired to clean two previously neglected wards.
Communication between the storeroom and nurses in the wards has also improved resulting in food, clothing, blankets, shoes and other necessities being supplied to patients.
Meanwhile, another company has been contracted to start replacing broken windows today.
In an interview last week, acting boss at the hospital Tobile Nogela said a 27-member team had been formed to help turn around the facility. The team is divided into small committees responsible for specific tasks.
This, after the Dispatch went undercover and spoke to workers who spilt the beans on poor conditions at the hospital.
Patients were made to sleep on mattresses that had been cut in half to accommodate two people.
They were fed on soup and bread due to an apparent food shortage, while some patients were forced to walk around half-naked due to a shortage of clothes.
MEC Sicelo Gqobana subsequently visited the facility and described it as an “embarrassment”.
He immediately suspended chief executive Mandisa Oliphant and storeroom manager Khonzisa Pango.
DA MPL John Cupido, who visited the hospital on Saturday, said the suspensions of the two were not enough.
“The shocking Komani incident is a siren call for a total overhaul of how the Health Department is managed in the Eastern Cape,” he said.
“Top management is clearly out of touch and this issue goes deeper than simply suspending officials. Why does it take the media and the portfolio committee on health to get action?”
He said he would write to the Human Rights Commission to request a full investigation into the matter. — firstname.lastname@example.org