Non-emergency cases add to Livingstone pressure

WHILE more and more people have slammed the lack of care for patients at Livingstone Hospital’s casualty unit, the hospital yesterday attributed the backlog to its being overwhelmed by the number of patients with chronic medical problems, while the unit was meant to deal with emergency and accident cases.

This week directors of a Nelson Mandela Bay safe house for women said the unit was a shambles and a basic right of patients was being violated as they were not getting adequate access to medical care.

Gary and Shelley Koekemoer, who run the Bet Sheekoom House of Restoration in Port Elizabeth, say that on two separate occasions they have had to wait several hours for women to receive medical attention at the beleaguered hospital.

The couple, who take in women in crisis, said they had been using the facility for the past eight years, but that it had been appalling for the past month.

“There has always been a wait when we have gone there, when we needed to take these women in for medical care. Sometimes we would wait up to four or five hours, but for the past month things have really been shocking,” Shelley said.

She said one woman was taken to the hospital’s casualty unit on January 15 at about 7pm with an extremely high temperature and in severe pain. “Only at about 5am did she receive a wristband and be identified as a patient. About an hour and 45 minutes after she arrived she received two pain tablets but by 7am she had still not been seen.

“Fortunately it was during the week and we could take her to a prime care clinic.”

She said that on Saturday at about 6am they rushed a woman with HIV/Aids to the hospital. She was in so much pain she was unable to walk.

“The nurses did absolutely nothing for her, and they are so rude. They simply say they cannot do anything because there is no doctor.”

Shelley said their patient only saw a doctor at 1pm the following day and was diagnosed with a severe kidney infection. “None of them checked on the patients or tried to make them comfortable but this is their basic duty.”

Magda Roos said she called for an ambulance on Sunday after her husband, Boetie, who suffers from emphysema, had difficulty breathing. Roos said they arrived at the casualty unit at about 7.45pm.

“By 5pm on Monday no doctor had seen him yet. He was still lying in the same place. No one had even come to check if he was OK.” She decided to take Boetie to a nearby clinic.

DA provincial MPL and the party’s spokesman for health, John Cupido, said he had received a series of complaints regarding the lack of staff and services at the casualty unit and had sent questions to the hospital management and the provincial Health Department.

“The department is very aware of the troubles and they have been building up for quite some time. Nothing has been done to resolve the issue and . . . it is now costing people their lives because they do not have access to immediate healthcare,” he said. “The department has allowed this to happen and the MEC must stop saying he will fix it, and actually fix it.”

But the hospital’s senior medical superintendent, Dr Robyn May, said the casualty unit was primarily meant to deal with emergency problems and accidents but there was an ongoing backlog due to patients coming in with chronic health issues. “For example, these patients are coming in for assistance with a back problem they have had for the past three weeks, or other similar problems. They are meant to go to a clinic, as the casualty unit prioritises the emergency cases.”

Nelson Mandela Bay health district senior clinical manager Dr Francois Fourie said there were 51 functioning clinics in the metro where patients with chronic conditions could go. Thirteen of these were major clinics while the others were smaller cluster clinics.

“All of the larger clinics have two doctors who will be stationed at one of the smaller clinics for one day a week.”

Fourie said people should make use of the clinics rather than putting pressure on hospital resources.

“There are very limited resources over the weekends but there are clinics that are open, one in Motherwell and another in KwaNobuhle.”