KwaZulu-Natal MEC for health Sibongiseni Dhlomo yesterday paid an unannounced visit to RK Khan Hospital in Chatsworth following staff protests over working conditions.
His tour to the 543-bed Durban hospital ended with him giving stern warnings to key unit managers to beef up their service delivery.
"I was disturbed to see large numbers of people awaiting treatment while staff were on lunch. This, as I stated to the pharmacy manager, is unacceptable.
"I cannot understand why almost two-thirds of the staff complement goes for lunch at once, leaving poor people having to spend the whole day at the hospital," Dhlomo said.
He instructed the district manager to do regular hospital visits to be abreast with people's complaints and to attend to such problems immediately.
Dhlomo said "a closed pharmacy" over lunch was unacceptable. He added that he was impressed with the work being done by "competent nurses" in the maternity wing.
A confidential inquiry report into maternal deaths indicated that 20 to 25percent of women do not attend antenatal clinic up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Some die because of poor management in maternity clinics due to causes such as hypertension and haemorrhage.
"I have not been able to get the reasons for the maternal deaths that have taken place at thishospital, but a report will be forwarded to me shortly.
"Our health system would be judged by the way we treatpregnant women," Dhlomo said.
A patient, Sifiso Ndlovu, 43, told Dhlomo that his stay at the hospital had been terrible.
"I've been here since Friday. When I am pressed and want to go to the toilet, I cannot go. I am not happy at all about the treatment that I have received here."
Ndlovu is one of 13 patients in the orthopaedic ward who are waiting for surgery.
Dhlomo ordered ward nurses to attend to Ndlovu's complaints.