The Uitenhage Provincial Hospital has been severely underfunded, because the Department of Health has incorrectly allocated funds to it as a district hospital, when it is, in fact, officially gazetted as a regional hospital.
This is an unnecessary bureaucratic nightmare in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Wards stand empty at Uitenhage Provincial, while other hospitals across the metro have become overcrowded battlegrounds against the disease.
The hospital is supposed to offer general specialist services and a platform for training and research, but they are only receiving the budget and the staff organogram of a district hospital, which is far smaller and offers less services.
This came to light following an oversight inspection at the hospital earlier this week, which revealed that the hospital is severely understaffed and underfunded.
This is, quite simply put, unlawful.
This facility, if it were properly staffed and funded according to its status as a regional hospital, could be relieving some of the immense pressure that other state hospitals in the Metro are currently under, in their battle with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Uitenhage Provincial currently has a ward which is empty and available to operate as a Covid-19 ward, but this is impossible with the current reduced staff component.
Vacant funded posts at the hospital remain unfilled, with interviews to fill these posts still taking place in late June, when the department was alerted to the urgency of filling these posts by epidemiologists in March already.
The lack of urgency in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, a global pandemic which has devastated nations, is simply unfathomable.
Further challenges facing the facility are the lack of vitally important equipment, which would allow more effective treatment of patients, as well as the constant struggle of the medical personnel to secure sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
It has become more and more apparent that, while the Department of Health insists that there is sufficient PPE in the province, the supply chain is still not working effectively. Doctors and nurses are finding themselves on the phone to supply chain managers daily, to try to secure sufficient PPE.
I have written to Health MEC, Sindiswe Gomba, to request that the budget and organogram for Uitenhage Provincial Hospital be adjusted immediately to reflect their status as a regional hospital, in order to comply with the law.
This will allow the facility to contribute far more significantly in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
I will further request that a dedicated committee be established immediately to prioritise recruitment so that posts can be filled in hours, not over several months. Prompt action has never been this crucial, as it will literally save lives.