Three doctors and two pharmacists are being brought into the hospital from tomorrow (Monday) to help initiate some of the 2000 HIV positive patients on the waiting list for ARVs.
Provincial health officials were galvanised into action over the past week, following an expose in last week’s Sunday Tribune of the crisis at the Pietermaritzburg hospital, according to hospital staff.
Dr Hlubi Dlwati, head of Edendale’s HIV/AIDS programme, said that the salaries of the sessional doctors and pharmacists brought in over the next week would initially be paid for by Broadreach, an international non-governmental organisation.
‘A further two doctors and two principal pharmacists will be starting on 1 August, initially on one-year contracts paid for by Broadreach. In September, two more doctors and a chief pharmacist will start work,’ said Dlwati.
‘We have chosen the NGO route initially because it is much faster. Broadreach can employ new people tomorrow whereas the creation of posts though the department takes time. But these posts will be converted into permanent posts by the department during the course of the year,’ he added.
Dlwati said that each doctor would start between 10 and 15 patients a day on ARVs, and that this should eliminate the waiting list in a month, as the new staff would complement the team of four doctors and two pharmacists already running the programme.
In addition, Broadreach is going buy furniture and equipment for the ARV clinic and has taken over managing the extension of the ARV pharmacy.
Broadreach, which is funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar), had offered to help Edendale some time ago but its offer was refused by the district medical manager, May Zuma-Mkhonza.
Zuma-Mkhonza was removed from her post this week by Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo for ‘failing to manage the issue of the ARV rollout at Edendale Hospital’.
She had allegedly told the provincial office that Edendale had reached its ARV target and was simply slowing down due to less demand for ARVs rather than a crisis caused by too few staff and too little space to manage the 11 000 patients it already has on ARVs, according to hospital sources.
Dlwati said three solutions had been proposed to address the cramped conditions for HIV patients at the clinic.
In the short term, Doris Goodwin Hospital, a TB hospital next door to Edendale, would be given a sessional doctor to start patients on ARVs.
A ‘roving team’ made up of a doctor, pharmacy assistant and a social worker, would go to the feeder clinics and start patients on ARVs there. There are 13 feeder clinics, and four already have nurses who have training in how to manage people on ARVs.
In the medium to long-term, a new clinic was going to be built alongside the mother-and-child HIV clinic at the hospital entrance for adults needing ARVs.