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By Narissa Subramoney

Deputy digital news editor

Charlotte Maxeke casualty reopens, but not ready to fully resume operations

Patients and ambulances told the hospital is not ready to take on walk-ins and emergency cases.

National Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla announced that operations at the casualty unit at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital are ‘gradually’ resuming- but major construction in the same ward is not completed.

Charlotte Maxeke reopened, but not to the public

The Accident and Emergency Department is located in Block 1 Level 6.

“Work will begin soon on the rest of Block 1 and will proceed in a staged approach through the rest of the hospital,” said Phaahla.

Phaahla said the hospital had received Occupational Health Safety approvals and certificates from the City of Johannesburg for the Accident and Emergency Department to be recommissioned for patient care.

The recommissioning of the Casualty unit is considered a key milestone, but the hospital is not yet in a position to relieve pressure from surrounding hospitals and community healthcare centres, which have had to take in more patients since the closure of this facility last year.

He warned patients and ambulances seeking emergency treatment not to turn up at Charlotte Maxeke because the hospital is only accommodating Priority 1 and 2 patients.

The ward’s CT machine is also still being repaired.

“It is important to indicate that the CT Scan machine is critical to the full operation of the A&E Units given that trauma and adult emergency patients that present with life-threatening conditions, (eg acute stroke, stabbed chest, head injuries, gunshots, etc.) are time-dependent and cannot be sent to another hospital,” said the Minister.

“Thus, the public is urged not to present at the hospital, but instead continue to use local healthcare facilities or call Emergency Medicine / Ambulance Services in case of an emergency on 10177,” he added.

The hospital is functioning, but at a severely reduced capacity with just under 800 patients receiving care at the facility.

Full-service may only resume end of 2023

Phaahla was at pains to remind critics that reopening Charlotte Maxeke was never going to happen overnight.

“Once more I need to emphasise that the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital remedial work project is a multi-phase, multi-year project that will be carried out on the hospital in its entirety.”

“I am aware that some people may say we did not meet our deadline hence we only announce today, but the fact of the matter is, the unit was ready in terms of the timeframes we announced,” emphasised Phaahla.

The Health Department has been under tremendous pressure to get repair work done at the fire-damaged hospital in record time because of the influx of patients who’ve had to find alternative treatment facilities.

Phaahla said the department had always planned for a phased reopening of the hospital so as to not overwhelm the facility and compromise patient care.

Patient transfers began on 4 May, mostly from Helen Joseph Hospital Emergency Department.

“As of today (Monday 9 May) a total number of 15 patients has been transferred,” Phaahla said.

Staff members who were temporarily transferred to other hospitals will also gradually return to their permanent workplace.

Meanwhile, mental health/psychiatry patients are also awaiting admission.

What still needs to be done?

Work has been completed on the Radiation Oncology building and now in the Accident and Emergency Department.

  • Emergency Unit – estimated completion, April 2022
  • Block 1 – Obstetrics & Gynaecology March 2023
  • Block 2 – Paediatrics July 2023
  • Block 3 – Surgery October 2023
  • Block 4 & 5 – Internal Medicine November 2023

All the equipment and machines have been installed in the Accident and Emergency unit, while work on the CT Scan is being completed.

The process to relocate patients from surrounding facilities, especially at Helen Joseph Hospital has begun.

“We are extremely grateful to the Solidarity Fund which sponsored the work done in the Accident and Emergency and the Spire Fund for implementing the project which cost about R68 million,” said Phaahla.

“We also wish to express gratitude to all the sponsors and partners that are involved in returning the facility to full functionality, namely the Solidarity Fund, Spire Fund and Gift of the Givers, he concluded.

NOW READ: Charlotte Maxeke fire: Desperate CEO calls NGO for help as government stalls

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