Families of patients at the Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital in Pretoria couldn’t reach their loved ones for at least a week.
This was after the aged PABX switchboard phone system crashed, resulting in the facility not being able to receive or make calls.
According to the Gauteng department of health, the problem only affected telephone lines, not emails.
But according to DA shadow MEC for health Jack Bloom this was of little comfort to distressed family members and patients who were desperate to reach their loved ones amid restrictions on visits isolating mental health patient.
Bloom said he received complaints from family members who could not reach the hospital last week, with one distressed mother even resorting to phoning the police as she couldn’t reach her daughter, a patient at the hospital.
“We apologise for the inconvenience the situation has caused to our stakeholders,” said department spokesperson Kwara Kekana. The collapse of the PABX switchboard phone system comes at a time when the department had already started the process of implementing a long-term solution.
Switchboard and telephone line issues have affected other hospitals such as Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital and others in the past year, said Bloom.
The department is embarking on a project to upgrade the network infrastructure at Weskoppies Hospital which includes the installation of a voice over IP system. But this will only be completed in the next six months.
“We would like to appeal to members of the public, especially to family members who have their loved ones at the facility to bear with us as we work towards overhauling the communication system. The facility will be communicating with stakeholders in the next couple of days informing them of the temporary contact details,” said Kekana.
On Wednesday, the department activated a backup solution that saw the hospital’s 24 wards supplied with cell phones to ensure that members of the public and other stakeholders are able to make contact with the facility and vice versa. Alternative numbers can be found below.
— Gauteng Health (@GautengHealth) February 25, 2021
Facilities such as Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital, Leratong
Hospital, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and Steve
Biko Academic Hospital have already had the voice over IP solution