Nurses at Footprints Hospice in Orlando East have resorted to candles and cellphones as sources of light in order to care for patients, while some hesitate to administer medication in darkness.
The facility - which cares for patients with terminal and acute illnesses who each pay R1300 a month - has been in darkness since Friday last week, forcing nurses and 27 patients to cope with difficult circumstances.
The Gauteng health department pays R452289 annually to the hospice for the care of six patients who were transferred to the facility from a public hospital. The other 21 pay for themselves.
When Sowetan visited the centre this week, nurses were stumbling about in the wards using their cellphones for light. Others were seen trying to choose medication from a dispensary in darkness, with candles held high for a better view.
"This is pathetic. We can't work in these conditions. I refuse to administer medication in darkness, if I give a patient the wrong medication I will lose my job," said one nurse.
Patients have had to abandon showers and use buckets of water to clean themselves.
The facility's only generator has not been working for months. Only the administration block and the hall have electricity. Management has identified a faulty electricity box which has been causing power outages since last year.
The facility does not have a landline telephone, making it difficult for nurses to contact emergency services and the families of patients. There are no oxygen machines and some electric wall sockets are not working.
Patient recovery is also being compromised because of a poor diet. It is alleged that patients are fed a diet of only soup and bread.
Sometimes patients and security guards have to act as caregivers to other patients due to staff shortages. The facility has 12 nurses who work in pairs per shift.
Another nurse said the cellphone she had been allocated did not allow her to carry out her duties. "It hardly has airtime and we are expected to use our own money to buy airtime to make emergency calls or to call the family of a deceased patient," she said.
A patient said his stay at the hospice had been "hell".
"The nurses are nice but we are being starved. Our linen is not being changed as often as it should be. We are being fed soup all the time and it has got to a point where we have to ask our families to bring us food," said the patient.
Lawrence Mnyanda, a community activist, said the hospice was prone to problems because of "irresponsible" management.
"They don't know how to manage this centre and as a result patients suffer. We've been against this place since 2003, when they converted it from a school into a hospital, because the environment was not conducive. It's too close to the houses," said Mnyanda.
The centre's manager, Balungile Mfiseni, said power outages were caused by increased power usage.
"We have reported this to Eskom and we are now looking for a technician to assess the damage. Our generator does not have the capacity either," said Mfiseni.