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By Hein Kaiser


Edenvale hospital horror: Not a place you’d want to be admitted

Conditions are awful enough to thank your lucky stars if you are fortunate enough to have medical aid.

It’s not a Hollywood horror story yet, but the state of Edenvale Hospital feels like it already foreshadows the consequences of what might be a broken system.

And it’s awful enough to thank your lucky stars if you are fortunate enough to have medical aid and access to private healthcare.

This is not necessarily a place where you’d expect to leave in a better state than on arrival, despite a host of incredible, friendly staff who are caring for the ill and injured against many odds.

Everywhere at Edenvale Hospital the staff, from cleaners through to doctors and everyone in between, greet people, smile and visibly share empathy and care in pretty dire circumstances.

It is admirable. There’s no air conditioning, open windows and doors provide ventilation. Everyone is working,
going somewhere and trying to do the best that they can.

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That’s what it looks like. What it feels like is, well, depressing. The junk strewn about the car park makes for an ominous welcome to the hospital. There’s even a rusty old car jack lying among old cool drink bottles, wrappers
and uncut grass.

On the pavement outside the main entrance, there’s a golf cart where a few people were eating sandwiches on its seats. It’s a nowhere cart. Inoperable, a front wheel is missing. Opposite it, the view of the old helicopter pad, a drying mattress is draped across the railing.

At the entrance to the casualty area, an old yellow Renault 9 pulls up. The bumpers are missing, tyres smooth and taped plastic sheeting cover its missing rear windows.

A middle-aged driver opens the passenger door and drags out what I assume to be his mom, up the wheelchair ramp, into the hot and sweaty casualty area.

There were no orderlies to help and the wheelchair with a buckled wheel at the entrance is of zero use.

The old lady joined a legion of people, dependent on triage selection for treatment, waiting. Nobody could sanitise, either, as the container at the entrance was empty.

Inside, staff who must go to work in this environment put up some festive decorations.

But there’s no cheer. Doctors and nurses are running around, making sense of the endless stream of patients seated on churchlike pews, the floor and standing space. Along the interior walls are signs of untended damp, mould and there’s zero ventilation.

A passage behind the area holds a handful of patients, some asleep, another facing the wall while his exposed, and clearly itchy buttocks, moons the world.

Whatever you do, don’t drink any fluids or eat before seeking treatment at casualty.

The restrooms are enough to make you revisit breakfast involuntarily. Damp is everywhere, the peeling paintwork diverts attention from a dangling light fitting with a urinal drain blocked with some smelly, brown, watery substance.

The cubicle isn’t much better. There’s no toilet paper, it looks like it has not been flushed for some time either.

In fact, on every floor visited, the prominent signs that advise to sanitise can never be heeded because all the dispensers have been removed.

The staircase from the ground floor has a lot of visible damp and the mezzanine windows look as if the mould that has settled on it pre-dates the hospital’s founding, more than a century ago.

The lights were off at radiology, where a photocopied sign informs you that it’s open 24/7. A masked, elderly man was sleeping on a gurney, while others on crutches and in various states of physical disrepair hang about in artificial dusk.

Further along, another gurney loiters in the passage, the mattress and metal frame dirtied with some dry – what can only be assumed to be – bodily fluid.

Upstairs, a man was admitted to casualty with two breaks in his femur. He’d been there since 10am and five hours later he’s waiting for a transfer to Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital.

‘Not a place you’d want to be admitted’

Gauteng department of health spokesperson Kwara Kekana promised action in response to the conditions at Edenvale Hospital.

“The department will follow up with the facility to ensure that the issues are addressed,” Kekana said.

Democratic Alliance’s shadow MEC for health in Gauteng, Jack Bloom, said he has been aware of challenges at Edenvale Hospital for several years.

“But if you think that is bad, take a tour of some of the other public health facilities in the province. South Africans have to endure far worse,” he said.

Local resident Simon Lapping said that he could not believe the conditions at the hospital after taking a neighbour, who didn’t have medical aid, for treatment.

“I remember the hospital as a premium care facility with a rich local history. It took nearly a century to reach its apex and a handful of time to be reduced to what it is today.”

According to Bloom, who frequently inspects provincial hospitals and clinics, the decay is symptomatic of a broken healthcare system.

“There is so much corruption and self-interest among cadre-deployed individuals that the system has crumbled over the years. There are so many good people within the system, but it is impossible to expect exceptional service delivery with the hand that they have been dealt in terms of resources.”

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He noted conditions in other healthcare facilities like the Tambo Hospital, formerly Benoni Boksburg, or in South Rand Hospital are dire.

“This is not a place where you’d want to be sick, or receive treatment,” he said.

Bloom said that he is still curious about the R500 million spent by AngloGold Ashanti in the far West Rand in anticipation of a Covid-influx of patients, “that never materialised”.

Bloom said that until corruption is rooted out completely, South Africans will continue to suffer poor public healthcare.

“Gauteng has the largest provincial healthcare budget in the country, yet it offers some of the worst facilities.”

He said that he has immense respect for medical staff who continue to try their best to serve the public under these conditions.


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