Hospital runs out of orthopaedic apparatus

Simon Nare

Simon Nare

If you stumble on plastic bags full of bottles used as traction for patients with broken bones at the Johannesburg Hospital's orthopaedic ward, do not think the institution has no money.

It's just one of the "creative" and "innovative" measures used by nurses to deal with the influx of patients.

The hospital's chief executive, Sagie Pillay, admitted yesterday that nurses at the ward use plastic bags full of bottles of saline as weights.

"First of all, we don't use conventional weights. We use specially designed containers which we fill with saline or just water. They have proved to be more effective than conventional weights," he said.

He admitted that the use of plastic bags full of bottles was in contravention of government policy.

"It doesn't happen often, but when we have an influx of patients we use various methods - but that is very rare," he said.

DA health spokesman Jack Bloom said he was shocked when he walked into the ward to find makeshift weights that nurses had put together to serve as traction for patients with broken bones.

"It [the bags] actually works quite well, but I would not expect this from a flagship hospital. It just seems so unprofessional.

"Are we really so short of budget that we can't even afford proper weights instead of bottles in ugly shopping bags?" asked Bloom.

Pillay said he was not aware that the ward had run out of proper weights.

"I personally went down to the ward and I was very surprised. The nurses indicated to me that they had run out of weights and had to make do with the plastic bags.

"This was a once-off thing, and I will immediately ensure that we have additional weights whether we have more patients or not," he said.

He added that the makeshift weights did not compromise the patients at all.

"The creative intervention by the staff is a short-term measure, and the moment they freed up the bottles they used, they were removed," he said.

Pillay said the hospital thrives on providing high-quality service, and if any patient had a complaint they should register it with the centre established for that purpose.