Tag Archives: Job Shimamkan Thabane

An Open letter to our Ministers of health.

12 May

To whom it may concern.

I am writing this letter as a plea for urgent assistance. Health care has been a serious issue in our country for decades and as we have seen some improvement in some sectors, there seems to be a major decline in other areas.

In 2011, my maternal grandmother was admitted to the then Paul Kruger hospital, in Rustenburg North West province. As I was in Johannesburg at the time, I immediately drove through the day after her admission. I was rather perturbed at the state of the hospital from the lack of hygiene and lack of empathy from the nurses.
We began making plans to have her moved to a private hospital, but as it was a Sunday an ambulance was only available the following day and that is when we were going to admit her. Unfortunately Gogo died that evening. The death certificate stated: natural causes.
Fast forward to 2015, my father needed medical attention after he had visited the local clinic on a number of occasions and each time he was diagnosed with bronchitis. After a few visits my mother felt that he had not really recovered and called us to take him to the hospital. The memory of the provincial hospital was still fresh in my mind and we then decided to take him to Ferncrest private hospital. The reception and treatment from the nurses and doctors was absolutely astounding. They immediately conducted tests on him and discovered that his sodium levels were way below normal and that there was a large mass on his lungs. The immediate treatment would be to get the sodium levels up and back to normal as he was now in a state of confusion and he could not walk and talk. The medial practitioners from the local clinic never recorded this condition.

Within 45 minutes he was admitted into a ward, they soon realized that he needed high care and was transferred to the ICU high care. Although this was a hefty financial commitment, the finance department was very accommodating and put my fathers interests first. The attending doctor took down my number and was in constant contact with me, breaking down his condition. I knew he was in safe hands.
The level of empathy and concern stretched as far as the ladies in the finance department and nurses holding me whilst I needed to cry and gather my thoughts.
Three days later he was out of danger and back to normal and two days after that he was sent to a normal ward. It was a great relief to see my father back to his bubbly normal state.
As the previous week had depleted our finances, the doctors on duty were aware that he was a cash patient they then gave the advice to have him discharged and be moved to a provincial hospital as the water mass on his lungs could be a number of cases, either TB or cancer, either way the condition was not too severe and a provincial hospital should be able to take care of it.

We left the hospital with high hopes. I was not happy with taking him to the local hospital, so we drove to Leratong hospital in the east rand of Johannesburg. On arrival at 18h00, we were only called into casualty around 20h00 where we were directed to a room bustling with mayhem and chaos. The doctors on duty were clearly overwhelmed and tired, I can honesty attest to this as the referral letter from the private hospital was lost within minutes, his x-rays were misplaced and the third attending doctor admitted that they were understaffed and that she had not slept in days. As much as I tried to have empathy for them, my main concern was my 84-year-old father who now needed oxygen and was cold.
At 01h00 he was finally wheeled up to the ward, I waited another thirty minutes or so and then the nurse was changing him or should I say put a sheet around him as there were no hospital pyjamas, they refused to allow him to keep his gown as it was hospital policy. At that point it was too late in the evening to argue. I gave my papa a kiss and a hug and went home. Little did I know that that was the last time I saw him alive.
The following day as I was on route to visit him, they called to say that he had passed on. Due to the trauma and sorrow we never had the energy to pursue the causes of death, it was only after the burial that I wished I had. I was informed that in most cases in provincial hospitals he probably did not receive oxygen and possibly died through the night. Then the nurses on duty check the bodies before visiting hours. Ironically I was called 15 minutes before visiting hours were meant to start.

Now in May, 2017, my 71-year-old uncle, falls sick and is taken to the Job Shimankana Tabane Hospital. The previous 10 days he had been receiving treatment from the local clinic but his condition had deteriorated.
He was taken into casualty at 11h00 on Saturday 6 May. By 19h00 he had not received a bed. The family was told to leave as he would be getting a bed and attended to. Having faith in the nurses on duty, they left. My sister arrived at 08h00 the following day only to find him still sitting in in the exact same chair. Out of frustration and emotion she raised the alarm and demanded attention to the inhumane way in which he had been treated and the hostile attitude from the nurses. Finally the head of department and the doctors on duty, who by the way tried on many occasions to assist but the admin part of the hospital is not in their care. My uncle was finally given a bed in casualty. The next few days we visited him in casualty and had to bring warm tea, as food was not distributed to patients in casualty but due to the circumstances the head nurse made plans and had food parcels delivered but no water or tea.
On Tuesday 9 May we arrived at the hospital and were told that he had moved to a ward.
We then met and sat down with the head nurse in charge Sister Angie Marobe. At first I thought it was just hospital administration trying to do damage control but I genuinely believe and felt her apology. She apologized for the terrible and inhumane treatment that he received but also was honest and practical with us.
The fact remains that the hospital does not have enough beds to accommodate everyone. She explained that the people who had arrived after my uncle were given treatment and beds as they were on a different code to him and were sent to different departments. He was considered as code orange which although treatable was not considered as a danger and therefore left on the side. My argument to that is that age should have been taken into consideration, she agreed. She also admitted that the nurses on duty should have been honest with us about the bed situation, as they knew that a bed would not be available and that if we were told then the decision to remove him would have been ours to make. Instead the nurses on duty lied and said a bed would be made available.
The sister explained that patients who are still admitted but their conditions improve are then removed from their beds and the beds are given to new demanding patients. This revelation horrified us to say the least.
I am very thankful for her candid and honest discussion and I feel real empathy for the doctors and nurses who work under those conditions. I asked her about resources and that was another issue that they are faced with. I can personally attest to that as after our meeting we had to move through the casualty ward and I saw doctors attending to patients and taking blood without gloves on, those are a few of the resources that the hospital is lacking. Perhaps interpersonal skills for the nurses should also be taken into consideration.

I wrote a post on my Facebook page airing my frustrations and asking for assistance. I was horrified by some of the stories relayed, of how so many people have been through the same ordeal some far worse than ours. Clearly this is not a provincial problem but a national problem. One reply suggested I contact the national spokesperson, Mr. Joe Maila. I immediately wrote a post on his Facebook page and he replied promptly and suggested a send a complaint to the CEO of the hospital. I then immediately phoned the hospital and was given an email address and on 09May at 10:29, I sent an email to a BMoagi.
I still have not received a response.
I have also sent mail to the email address that I found on the National health government website. I still have not received a response.

So in conclusion, we have accepted the apology from Sister Angie Marobe and thank her and her head of department fro not dismissing us, however we cannot let the matter rest.
We are dealing with two major concerns, firstly with lives and more importantly we are dealing with the lives of the elderly. What about those families who don’t have nieces or nephews who can drive them back and forth or even worse those people who do not believe that they have a voice or who know their rights? How many more cases are to follow ours?

Secondly, we are dealing with doctors and nurses who have been forced to work in such conditions, doing their best with what resources they have.

If the situation is so dire that the hospitals do not have enough beds, then what is the plan ahead? In business when you run out of resources you join forces, surely in this case, could the hospital not have communication with surrounding hospitals, as a temporary measure? Is there a plan to build more hospitals closer to the communities? What guarantees do we have that people who need medical attention receive it?
Please may we have answer and solutions, as we can no longer allow our communities to die in the hands of people who should be taking care of us?

Remember, Nelson Mandela once said, ‘To deny any person their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.’

Yours truly,
Rosie Motene.