Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


Watch: More units open at Charlotte Maxeke hospital but several issues remain

'We are overwhelmed' – The hospital is functioning between 75 and 80% capacity, and nurses cite a lack of resources and a shortage of personnel.


The gradual reopening of Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital has, according to health workers, caused more inconvenience and heightened the healthcare crisis in Gauteng.

With missed deadlines for reopening, displeased health workers and a lack of resources, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) said they “cautiously” welcomed the announcement operations at the casualty unit were gradually resuming.

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Denosa’s Gauteng chair, Simphiwe Gada, said the union would conduct its own walkabout to see the improvements and check where the hospital was lacking.

“When the fire broke out, we saw the premier committing for the hospital to be reopened quickly. They even set a deadline and they failed,” he said.

Charlotte Maxeke hospital
Health Minister Joe Phaahla at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital on 9 May 2022. Photo: The Citizen/Nigel Sibanda

“This is not only an inconvenience to the surrounding hospitals, but it’s a major inconvenience to patients.”

A nurse at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, who asked to remain anonymous, said the pressure did not start when Charlotte Maxeke patients were transferred to other hospitals, but it increased the burden and healthcare crisis in the province.

“All hospitals in Gauteng are facing a crisis, particularly of staff shortages. So this new deadline does not mean they will reopen then. There has been an increase in patients, especially since the fire, but most hospitals are not staff updated,” she said.

“We are overwhelmed. They must just employ more nurses.”

She said apart from the inconvenience of being short-staffed, resources were stretched at the hospital. She urged the department to urgently build another hospital in Gauteng to reduce the burden.

This was after Health Minister Joe Phaahla said claims that the hospital was still closed and nonfunctional were incorrect as the facility was partially open and “functioning at between 75% and 80% capacity”.

Phaahla said the first of 15 mental health patients were taken in on 4 May from Helen Joseph Hospital in a transfer aimed at alleviating the strain the sister hospital has been under, due to having to a hugely increased patient burden.

Joe Phaahla - Charlotte
Health Minister Joe Phaahla briefs the media at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital in Johannesburg on 9 May 2022 after the official reopening of the accident and emergency units. Photo: The Citizen/Nigel Sibanda

Phaahla said the hospital had received occupational health safety approvals and certificates from the City of Joburg for the accident and emergency department to be reopened for patient care.

“The accident and emergency unit is not accepting walk-ins or ambulances, only pre-arranged transfers of patients from other centres.

These will be stabilised patients for clinical care,” Phaahla said. “Currently, there are just under 800 patients in the hospital.”

Charlotte Maxeke hospital
The Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital’s reception area, 9 May 2022. Photo: The Citizen/Nigel Sibanda

Security an issue

Democratic Alliance Gauteng shadow health MEC Jack Bloom said he was disappointed that the accident and emergency unit at Charlotte Maxeke was not fully reopened this week, but would only accept patients in a phased manner, mostly because the CT scanner had not been repaired.

“This highlights the need for proper security as the scanner was vandalised, despite R40 million spent annually on security at the hospital,” he said.

“It appears there are criminal syndicates that could still sabotage the reopening of other hospital departments.”

Charlotte Maxeke hospital
Photo taken on 9 May 2022 at the official reopening of the accident and emergency units at the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital. Photo: The Citizen/Nigel Sibanda

It was vital “cast-iron guarantees were given that the deadlines were met for obstetrics and gynaecology to open in March next year, paediatrics in July, surgery in October and internal medicine in November 2023”.

“The public and the private sector need to work efficiently together to ensure there are no further delays,” Bloom said.

ALSO READ: Charlotte Maxeke casualty’s failure to open a sign of ‘deep incompetence’

“If this does not occur, hundreds of patients will continue to suffer at hospitals like Helen Joseph, which cannot cope with the flood of patients.”

Charlotte Maxeke chief executive Gladys Bogoshi said the hospital was using the latest security technology.

“The way the hospital was built was a big, open area where one could walk to many of the floors.

“Now, we are compartmentalising the CCTV cameras to show us certain areas, especially ones that are high-risk.”

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