Patients forced to sleep on the floor

Patients forced to sleep on the floor

EASTERN CAPE – Patients from rural Mbizana, who rely on state transport to get them to Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Umthatha for specialist treatment, have to sleep on the floor while they wait for an ambulance.

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It’s a regular occurrence for sick people who need to be taken from St Patrick’s Hospital in Mbizana, where they are dropped off at about 6 pm in the evening and then need to wait until 3 or 4 am when their transport arrives. During the waiting time, they are not given access to a waiting area, and so can only lie down on the ground until Emergency Medical Services arrives.

The Eastern Cape’s Department of Health has distanced itself from the situation, claiming that patients transferred to other hospitals are not the liability of St Patrick’s Hospital.

Patients waiting for state transport to get them to Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Umthatha for specialist treatment. (Pic: Zizo Zikali/Health-e).

This follows reports that patients from villages surrounding Mbizana such as Nikhwe, Mathwebu, Nomlacu, Jali, Ntshangase, Bhala, Redoubt and other villages outside Mbizana town were regularly left to sleep on the floor while waiting for an EMS ambulance that would arrive to fetch them during the early hours of the following day.

Not hospital liability

Department of Health provincial spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo emphasised that those patients are not the liability of the hospital.

“Hospitals should not be obligated to provide a waiting area for patients waiting for patient transport vehicles within the premises of the hospital. Arrangements for transport are conducted by EMS. The patients should not be even allowed to enter the hospital’s premises, however, they do so because of the grace of the hospital because it is understood that the patient transport vehicle cannot collect them from their homes.”

A number of patients who refused to be named for fear that they will be deprived of the hospital services said they have no option but to wait for many hours and sleep on the floor while waiting for transport.[quote float=right]Hospitals should not be obligated to provide a waiting area for patients waiting for patient transport vehicles within the premises of the hospital. Arrangements for transport are conducted by EMS. The patients should not be even allowed to enter the hospital’s premises, however, they do so because of the grace of the hospital because it is understood that the patient transport vehicle cannot collect them from their homes.[/quote]

“I have been attended to by the doctor here at St Patricks Hospital and been referred to a specialist in Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Umthatha.  I come from Ndunge village, which is far from town and public transport from the village is available only until 6 pm. The only option I have is to wait here.”

Patients usually wait for approximately ten hours during which time they are not catered for by the hospital in terms of provision of beds, food and other needs. They sleep on the floor until the patient transport vehicle arrives – usually, around 3 am or 4 am.

Meanwhile, former coordinator at the Eastern Cape Action Coalition and health activist Fikile Boyce said the Department of Health should devise a way to render quality services to the people.

“The Department of Health in conjunction with the Emergency Medical Services should work towards helping those people who solely depend on government services,” she said.

The agreement could include collecting and dropping patients off at their homes as they are vulnerable and could become victims of all sorts of crime while accessing health services that are not catered for by hospitals. They should not be left to sleep in hostile conditions, she said.