In his first meeting with the CEOs since four were removed from their posts in May for dysfunctional management, Dhlomo stressed once again that ‘the buck stops with you’.
Addressing the CEOs of Prince Mshiyeni, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, King Edward V, Addington, RK Khan, Mahatma Gandhi and Wentworth hospitals, he said they were ‘in the spotlight’.
‘If we want to turn around the tide of health outcomes that are terrible in this country, then you have to look at KwaZulu-Natal,’ said Dhlomo. ‘We have the highest rates of TB, HIV and infant mortality and a large population.
‘You (in eThekwini) are at the centre of the province. The spotlight of the country and the province is on you. If there is a problem at a clinic or a small rural hospital, that problem will come to your hospital.’
He urged them to ‘manage by walking around the hospital to see if things are working, if staff are at work. Go to the clinics that fall under you to see if they are working too. The face of the province rests with you.’
However, the MEC said that the outsourcing of certain functions such as security and cleaning had created problems for service delivery.
‘’We are also not going to have independent security companies at hospitals. It is not acceptable that a cleaner refuses to clean an operating theatre because she reports to a boss sitting somewhere outside the hospital.
‘We have found that out-sourcing what we thought were non-core functions has had an impact on service delivery. We must make sure that these workers are answerable to the hospital.’
But Dhlomo said it was impossible to ‘expect miracles’ in a month or so since the four CEOs from Prince Mshiyeni, Mahatma Gandhi, Addington and King Edward V hospitals had been removed.
In the case of Mahatma Gandhi, the hospital had been ‘built as an 16-seater taxi but was now expected to operate as a bus’.
‘When I visited there, I found one professional nurse, one enrolled nurse and an assistant nurse in a medical ward with 52 patients. By 12 o’clock they were still giving out the morning medicine.’
The situation there would only improve once the new hospitals have been built at KwaMashu and Inanda.
The problems in the maternity ward at Prince Mshiyeni were caused in part by the fact that it was the only facility in Umlazi where women could deliver babies, and it had some 1 200 deliveries a month.
Wentworth Hospital was now assisting to take some of the deliveries, while the province was investigating whether some of the 20 clinics that fell under her hospital could also deliver babies.
After addressing the CEOs, the MEC went on to address health workers at Prince Mshiyeni Hospital, thanking them for the work that they were doing and reminding them of the oath they had taken to serve the sick.
Urging them not to report late for work or to leave their wards until the next shift had arrived, he said ‘no one can live with the guilt of knowing they could have saved a patient’ if they had been there a few minutes earlier.
He said the province was targeting improving infant and child mortality, maternal mortality and HIV/AIDS treatment.
‘An excellent prevention of mother-to-child HIV infection programme doesn’t mean anything if you can’t guarantee the child’s survival once it is born HIV-free.’
The shake-up of staff in KwaZulu-Natal is part of a national programme undertaken by Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi to improve hospital services with a back-to-basics approach emphasizing infection control and patient care.
A national task team is currently visiting all hospitals in the country to investigate the causes of the decline in hospital services.