KZN health in bad state

18 April 2017
Times Live

The healthcare system is collapsing in KwaZulu-Natal as hospitals are short-staffed and filled with broken equipment.

"Every day it gets worse," said the head of the KwaZulu-Natal coastal branch of the SA Medical Association, Mvuyisi Mzukwa.

Mzukwa wrote a letter to the head of the SA Medical Association on behalf of the province's doctors.

The Times has a copy of the letter, which warns of a growing risk in medical legal cases due to the reduced level of care at short-staffed hospitals.

The letter details that:

  • There is only one oncologist for Durban and the South Coast;
  • There is only one urologist in the whole region;
  • There is a nine-month wait for an MRI scan for state patients;
  • Ultrasounds at St Aidan's Hospital have a six-month wait;
  • Resultant Finance, which won a R2.5-billion tender in 2015 to buy and maintain all provincial hospital equipment, has failed to do so;
  • Radiotherapy machines for radiation do not work in Addington Hospital;
  • There is a shortage of anaesthetists across the province; and
  • A total of 440 diabetic children are at risk of having no specialist to supervise their complicated treatment as the two full-time paediatric endocrinologists quit, leaving only one part-time specialist at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital.

Mzukwa said the entire focus is on primary healthcare to the detriment of specialist services.

The government's policy is to spend money on clinics and nurses and improve the basic health system so fewer people need specialist treatment.

KwaZulu-Natal stopped training specialists in 2015 because it could not afford to pay trainees, known as registrars.

The letter claims at least 15 hospitals are severely affected by staff cuts. This includes the biggest and most-specialised hospitals in Durban to which the sickest patients across the province are referred.

The list includes Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, King Edward VIII Hospital and Addington Hospital and Pietermaritzburg's Grey's Hospital - all specialist hospitals - as well as smaller hospitals such as St Aidan's, RK Khan Hospital, Stanger and McCord's.

Last month director-general of health Precious Matsoso told parliament there were many vacancies nationally because provinces could not afford to hire doctors. She warned of a growing number of lawsuits as patients did not get the care they needed because of the countrywide shortage. Matsoso said 12.5% of posts across the country were frozen or vacant, with hospitals prevented from hiring more staff.

The KwaZulu-Natal department of health has not responded to questions about Mzukwa's letter
.