Komani Hospital overrun by municipal officials instead of patients

Komani Hospital overrun by municipal officials instead of patients

During a full-blown and escalating mental healthcare crisis in our province, in which psychiatric patients simply cannot access the care they need due to shortages of space, Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality officials have taken over no less than three thirty-bed wards at the Komani Psychiatric Hospital, because they don’t have office space.

This is outrageous!

Another sixty -bed ward has also closed, as it is dilapidated, and the Department of Health has not paid service providers to complete the necessary repairs.

This means that at least 150 psychiatric patients are being denied their right to access adequate psychiatric healthcare at this facility.

I have written to the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Paahla, as well as the South African Human Rights Commission, to express my concern that the Eastern Cape Department of Health has allowed this to happen on their watch, and to request that the municipal officials be removed from the facility with immediate effect.

Letter Minister Joe Paahla – Komani Hospital March 2024

Letter to SAHRC – Komani Hospital March 2024

As things stand, Frontier Hospital in eKomani is inundated with mental health patients but they do not have professional nurses with the requisite psychiatric qualifications to treat them. Many of these patients are classified as criminally insane and require the forensic services that Komani Hospital offers.

Another huge challenge for Komani Hospital is the fact that they only have a visiting psychiatrist from Fort England Hospital in Makhanda once a week on a Friday.

The Department of Health should urgently consider bringing a psychiatrist from Cecilia Makiwane Hospital to Komani Hospital for two days a week, and another psychiatrist from Nelson Madela Academic Hospital in Mthatha for another two days a week, to try to address the extensive observation backlog at Komani Hospital.

Komani Hospital can accommodate up to 420 patients and offers forensic services, while the Elizabeth Donkin Hospital in Gqeberha only has 160 patients and no forensic services, and yet they get the same budget for Goods and Services annually.

Komani Hospital has a shortage of at least thirty professional nurses with specialty in psychiatric nursing. This begs the question: is the Eastern Cape Department of Health purposefully trying to collapse this hospital?

Since the former Health Ombudsman, Professor Mkhize, released his report on the dire state of mental healthcare in this province in 2018, absolutely nothing has been done to improve the work circumstances of the clinical and non-clinical staff at the hospital, and nothing has been done to improve the healthcare services rendered to mental patients. In fact, the situation has visibly declined.

It has become crystal clear that there is no political will to address the mental health crisis in our province, and Komani Hospital is a perfect example of the consequences of poor management and maladministration at the provincial level.

It is time for a government that knows how to govern effectively and that can rescue our citizens from an uncaring and corrupt ANC government that is hellbent on lining their pockets instead of improving the lives of all South Africans. It is time for a DA government to rescue the Eastern Cape.