THE shortage of doctors in state hospitals in rural areas has come under criticism from patients and relatives whose loved ones are on the receiving end of shoddy services.
Irate family members yesterday told how KwaMagwaza District Hospital, serving more than 60000 people, relied on only one doctor.
The affected people claimed the hospital had only 141 authorised beds and only three fixed clinics at KwaYanguye, Ndundulu and Nomponjwana.
A community member, Douglas Shandu, told how patients had to wait in long queues before being attended to because the doctor was "on lunch".
"We brought our sick brother to this hospital because we could not risk taking him to Nkonjeni Hospital, which is in Mahlabathini.
"But when we arrived at the hospital we were told that the doctor was on lunch. We waited for almost an hour and the doctor finally showed up," Shandu said.
He said other members of the community told him it was a normal thing because there was only one doctor who had to see all the people who came to the hospital.
Patients at the hospital confirmed the long queues and that conditions at the health service were poor.
"If you are lucky you see the doctor after many hours of waiting or you are told to go back home and return the following day," another patient said.
Hospital spokesperson Sabelo Ngobese denied the claims.
"We have four doctors at this hospital, though currently one of them is on leave. But to say there's one doctor is a lie," Ngobese said.
He said the hospital could only improve on its service delivery mandate if "dissatisfied patients and their families" reported their grievances to the hospital first.
Meanwhile, the provincial health department earlier this month said it had lifted the moratorium on critical posts, especially those of doctors at 22 hospitals in the province, to allow hospitals to hire staff.
Provincial health department haed Sibongile Zungu said the unfreezing of posts was an ongoing process.