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.
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.
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.