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Far East Rand hospital crisis

Written by Thabo Molelekwa

Overcrowded wards, a shortage of blankets, broken showers and no hot water – these are among the shocking conditions patients face when admitted to the Far East Rand Hospital in Springs.

How a shower used by patients at Far East Rand hospital looks like inside. (Credit: Thabo Molelekwa / Health-e)

Patients at the government hospital say they believe their health is in danger at the facility where poor sanitation and overcrowding makes infection control difficult.

Alerted to these problems, Health-e News visited the Far East Rand Hospital anonymously recently and witnessed first hand that the showers in Ward 7 don’t work because they do not have taps, the bathroom facilities were filthy. The ward was packed with about 60 patients – two more sleeping in the corridor, with only one dirty toilet for all of them.

According Mzwakhe Dlomo, a patient who alerted Health-e News about the dire conditions as the hospital, patients could not shower and had to wash themselves at a basin where there was only cold water.

“Those who cannot wash themselves have to wait for their families to come with hot water during visiting hours, and wash them around that time,” Dlomo said.

He added that at night there were only four nurses allocated to Ward 7 to attend all the 60 patients.

“Nurses can’t help everyone in this ward because we are so many,” he said.

No blankets

Many of the bed-ridden patients were covered only with sheets.

“When we ask for blankets we are told to ask our families to bring blankets for us because the hospital does not have more blankets,” said Dlomo.

Another patient in the ward said it was traumatic when a patient died in the ward as it would take more than three hours for the hospital to remove the deceased. This meant that sick people would be forced to spend several hours alongside a corpse before it was removed to the mortuary.

Gauteng Department of Health spokesperson, Khutso Rabothata, said the department was aware of problems at the Far East Rand Hospital and was taking them up with the hospital’s management.

Responding to the fact that Ward 7 was overcrowded with about 60 patients, he said the ward had the capacity to hand 40 patients but had at times had to accommodate up to 58 patients, some of whom had been put in side rooms.

“The overcrowding in the wards is due to a population increase in the hospital’s catchment area. The hospital had to put in extra beds to accommodate all patients admitted on any one day,” he said, adding that the aim was to ensure all patients get medical care.

Overcrowding results

According to Rabothata, the hospital discharges patients daily in order to make space for incoming patients. He said Far East Rand Hospital serves 22 clinics and four Community Healthcare Centres, meaning the facility is under heavy pressure.

Rabothata admitted to a shortage of blankets, but said this was a result of the overcrowding.

Asked about the delayed removal of deceased patients from the wards he said: “Our standard policy regarding the removal of a corpse from the ward is that it must happen within 30 minutes. This will be taken up with the facility management.”

He was also aware of the inadequate sanitation.

“We acknowledge concerns about the ablution facilities, and have instructed hospital management and get it rectified as soon as possible.”

An edited version of this story appeared in The Star.

About the author

Thabo Molelekwa

Thabo Molelekwa joined OurHealth citizen journalists project in 2013 and went on to become an intern reporter in 2015. Before joining Health-e News, Thabo was a member of the Treatment Action Campaign’s Vosloorus branch. He graduated from the Tshwane University of Technology with a diploma in Computer Systems and started his career at Discovery Health as a claims assessor. In 2016 he was named an International HIV Prevention Reporting Fellow with the International Centre for Journalists and was a finalist in the Discovery Health Journalism Awards competition in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Thabo also completed a feature writing course at the University of Cape Town in 2016. In 2017 he became a News reporter , he is currently managing the Citizen Journalism programme.You can follow him on @molelekwa98