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Ngwelezana Hospital’s ICU cannot cope with huge demand

‘Ngwelezana Hospital ICU is an 8-bed unit which is not adequate to meet the demand for the whole of Region 4, with an estimated population of 2.5 million people.'

THE Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Ngwelezana Hospital is not adequately equipped to meet the demand of the uMkhanyakude, Zululand and King Cetshwayo districts with an estimated population of 2.5 million people.

Ngwelezana Hospital Acting CEO Dr Bright Madlala says the hospital is an eight-bed unit which cannot cope with the huge demand.

‘We have appealed to the province to offer more ICU beds and there is progress.

‘Soon after the completion of the new 192-bed surgical unit, the construction of the new state-of-the-art theatre complex will take place at Ngwelezana next year.

‘This includes an increased number of theatres, a 20-bed ICU facility and a 20-bed high care unit. Many other additions will be done to improve the hospital’s functionality,’ Madlala said.He says ICU trained nurses are very scarce.

‘We have to compete with private institutions for the same highly qualified nurses.

‘This makes it difficult to recruit and replace them when some leave the service.
‘This does put a burden on the existing staff, but we are confident that the ratio of ICU trained nurses per ICU patients is still higher than what one will find at some private hospitals.’

He said at a time of cost containment, cost effective service remains a priority, but gave the assurance that patient care has never been compromised.
Two reliable sources revealed issues of staff shortages, machines not serviced and a lack of adequate space at the unit.

‘The unit is short-staffed. What a critical care unit is meant to have is three specialists and eight medical officers, but there are only two specialists and four medical officers, half of what the unit should have.
‘It is a 24-hour service. And when nurses resign, their posts are not filled. It is a really big problem, which means certain people are overworked. Often times there are six nurses instead of eight.

‘If one nurse takes care of two patients, both who are on ventilation, they need to be observed hourly. That is putting aside all the other needs patients have. So there is no rest,’ the source said.
Another source highlighted the lack of servicing critical machines and the time it takes to repair non-functioning equipment.

‘For example a blood gas machine used for many tests has not been fixed for six weeks.’
The lack of isolation rooms as well as a comfort room for relatives of patients, were among other issues raised.
‘When a patient dies and the relative has to be informed, there’s no dedicated comfort room for that conversation to take place. There’s no privacy,’ the source said.

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