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Doctors at the Barberton Hospital in Mpumalanga allegedly leave patients unattended to rush to their private practices.
This is according to frustrated patients who claim they were forced to leave the hospital without seeing a doctor.
"This is a life-threatening situation because a sick person might die while waiting for doctors," said one patient, Samson Nkosi.
"They are nowhere to be seen because they leave early to work in private surgeries," Nkosi said.
Another patient, who left without seeing a doctor at the outpatient department (OPD), said she was "sick and tired of complaining about the doctors".
"What can we do other than look for help elsewhere?" asked Onica Makhubele.
Mpumalanga health department spokesman Mpho Gabashane confirmed that there was a problem at the hospital, but blamed the situation on the hospital management.
"Sometimes it is not a question of having a shortage of doctors in the province, but the hospital management," said Gabashane yesterday.
He said the situation was because of doctors having to do other jobs within the hospital, leaving only two doctors at the OPD.
But when Sowetan arrived at the hospital at noon yesterday, there was not a single doctor in any of the consulting rooms.
Gabashane said that between 8am and 11am the doctors were doing rounds in the wards, and only two were at the OPD.
He said the hospital has 20 doctors, 10 of whom were permanently employed, while the other 10 were session doctors who also worked in private practices.
The Treatment Action Campaign condemned the situation, saying HIV-Aids patients were the worst affected.