Brits Hospital: An institution in a serious crisis
An investigation reveals frightening conditions, with people being put in danger
BRITS District Hospital is on the verge of total collapse.
Earlier this month Sowetan visited the 47-bed hospital, one of the main hospitals in North West.
Sowetan spoke to several workers and nurses, whose names are known to us but preferred to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation.
During our visit, we found:
- Poorly ventilated prefab buildings being used as wards while a new structure is being built;
- The hospital's pharmacy closed on weekends and only functions during the day on weekdays, forcing patients to wait for urgent medication;
- Last year the province's department of labour threatened to close the facility after it failed health and safety regulations;
- The hospital does not have a mortuary, resulting in delays before corpses are removed;
- Mothers are forced to sleep and breastfeed babies on stools as there are no beds to cater for them when they stay with their infants in the paediatric ward, which is also a container;
- Some wards are used as storage for gas cylinders, which are placed too close to beds, posing a fire hazard;
- The hospital has been operating without a clinical manager and an assistant director after both quit their jobs recently over objections to other managers. The hospital's accountant has also resigned.
"Those are critical positions and no hospital will run properly without them," a nurse said.
Nurses accuse the hospital authorities of violating health and safety regulations, which were highlighted in a department of labour report Sowetan has seen.
These include exposed wiring in wards, obstructions of passageways and emergency exits and crammed offices.
The report gave the hospital until November 2011 to rectify the faults, but the issues have not been resolved.
The province's labour department spokeswoman, Orpa Mathabe, confirmed the findings but said they had not gone back to the hospital since the initial report.
"A lot of things were not right there, even the electric plugs were not professionally done," she said. "There were no qualified safety representatives.
"There were rumours of a shutdown, but it cannot be done because there are patients who are relying on the hospital for service."
During Sowetan 's visit, patients were sleeping on the floor.
"It gets full here on Mondays and we are forced to take some patients to the physiotherapy ward, which is not used due to its broken machines," a nurse said.
Earlier this year the hospital opened a male circumcision programme, which closed after two months.
"We were not coping with the burden. We ended up having too many infection control-related cases and many patients came back with sceptic wounds," said the nurse.
The hospital's radiography department was understaffed and emergency X-rays could only be done given the availability of a machine operator.
Three workers are responsible for sorting and counting laundry, which is collected by a contracted cleaning company three times a week. On other days laundry workers are forced to clean linen in a single ordinary washing machine.
"We need about 10 more workers to work efficiently," said one worker.
This article was first published in the printed newspaper on 22 October 2012