Expired medicines and rotten food found at Polokwane Provincial Hospital and patients being forced to wait many hours before receiving help at Kgapane Hospital in Mopani district are among the issues that need to be urgently addressed and have been blamed on poor leadership.

Polokwane Provincial Hospital, regarded as the best in the province, is marred with problems ranging from expired medication, a shortage of consultation rooms, a poor filing system, laundry machines that don’t work and expired food in the kitchen.

The SAHRC paid a surprise visit to the facility and discovered expired food and medicines that were going to be given to patients.

A poor filing system means that patients are required to open a new file every time they visit the hospital, as the staff cannot locate old files. Hundreds of patients seeking better health care services from specialists are transferred to the Polokwane Provincial Hospital from regional hospitals within the province. Patients are forced to consult with doctors in the open, in front of other patients, due to the shortage of consultation rooms.

Human rights violations

“It is a violation of human rights when patients are forced to reveal their illnesses in front of others. Imagine a chronically ill patient being forced to consult in the open. It is something we cannot allow to carry on. The filing system is also non-existent and doctors are unable to find patients medical histories,” said Victor Mavhidula, SAHRC commissioner in the province.

He added: “We also found expired medications and old food at the hospital which raises a lot of questions about the leadership. The laundry machine is also not working. If we allow the provincial hospital to collapse we will be saying that the public health system in the province has collapsed, as it is regarded as the best hospital in the province. Something needs to be done urgently to address the situation and we will not rest until everything is in order.”

On Tuesday Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi admitted that the public health system in the country is faced with various challenges: “It is very true and self-evident that the healthcare system is very distressed and going through hard times.”

The SAHRC will be presenting its findings at Polokwane Provincial Hospital to the MEC of Health, Dr Phophi Ramathuba, in order to request a high-level intervention.

During her visit to Kgapane Hospital in Mopani district following several complaints from patients which circulated through social media, the MEC of health in the province, Dr Phophi Ramathuba blamed the poor treatment of patients on poor leadership at the hospital. She has since introduced a new interim management as a temporary solution.

She has also asked patients to visit their local clinics first before going to hospitals.

An edited version of this story was published by Health24.