carine hartman 2021

By Carine Hartman

Chief sub-editor


Giving state healthcare the finger, because it may just keep it

Now I understand why you pay for a medical aid.


My boy is losing a finger in a comedy of errors and I wonder why I ever promoted state healthcare.

It’s 9pm when he tells me the table saw “nicked” him. The blood on the floor told me it was more than a nick.

“Tourniquet,” is all I’m thinking. It becomes my scarf that holds together that very important middle finger. I hand over my bank card to Responsible Son to get the sawyer to hospital – not any hospital.”

“Go private,” I panted. “I won’t let him bleed to death.”

First red flag.

Nearly R2 000 later, we hear “he is stable (on a drip and pumped full of the drug for horses) but the cut is deep. He needs surgery tonight or…”

And that is when it all went pear-shaped, Minister of Health Joe Phaahla … I don’t care if you, Phaahla, suspend Health Professions Council chief executive Dr David Motau for alleged misconduct.

Look closer to home and suspend some doctors.

From the private clinic we are off to Edenvale Hospital, the bane of my existence because of a history of incompetence with a dislocated shoulder. The finger hanging by a shred?

“Sorry, we don’t have surgeons on standby. Try Helen Joseph.”

A desperate nurse there asks: “Why did they tell you to come to us?” and promptly hangs up the phone.

But their switchboard tells me how the system works: “Ma’am, you need to phone the ambulance. They know which
hospital has doctors.”

So I phone Responsible Son and tell him about the ambulance.

“I’m still waiting for mine after I phoned them months ago,” is the bitter reply.

And he is right, we used the Jewish ambulance service – very competent they were, even greeted us on first-name basis at the hospital.

But I understand why you pay for a medical aid: if I had one, my lovely boy would now be under having nerve damage minimised instead of chasing ambulances.

It’s midnight, Dr Phaahla.

My boy is a “yellow” case at Helen Joseph. No urgency.

I still don’t know if my handyman is losing his handy middle finger. But I promise you, I’ll give you the middle finger should he.

See you in court.

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Columns National Health Insurance (NHI)