Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

Disgruntled patients waiting for their chronic and other medical treatment, some for as long as six months, have been on hunger strike at Mahatma Gandhi Hospital in Phoenix, Durban, for the past four days.

The 22 patients have been refusing to take their meals, demanding better treatment from the hospital.

The patients say they have been lying in their beds in the "overcrowded" institution waiting for treatment for fractures and other illnesses.

They say hospital equipment is not in working order, and promises of transferring patients to other hospitals have not materialised.

Bheka Ngcobo said the hunger strikers were tired of waiting. "The hospital is failing to stick to its health mandate. TB sufferers share the same ward with those waiting for arthritis operations.

"Patients waiting to go to theatre to mend broken limbs are just given pain killers."

A source at the hospital told Sowetan yesterday that problems raised by the patients were not new. "Some people in the community don't have confidence in the treatment given at the hospital. They don't come here anymore. Patients have started to become more demanding and aggressive," she said.

She added that the hospital had huge staff shortages, poor data collection and systems, no resuscitation areas, poor high care and paediatric intensive care unit.

Another staff member said the situation was so bad that even paramedics encountered problems when fetching patients to transport them to the hospital. "Some refuse to be brought here because they feel the service is very poor."

Councillor Roy Moodley said the hospital had a long history of providing shoddy treatment. "The people in the community are not happy with the service they get from this hospital," Moodley said.

"People call the hospital a mortuary, saying when they are admitted there, it is only to die."

Provincial health department spokesman Chris Maxon said the department's HOD had visited the hospital two days ago to deal with the problems.

"She met with the patients and made arrangements for them to be transferred to Albert Luthuli Hospital for treatment."

Maxon said the department was not told of the other concerns regarding the poor treatment of patients, or the lack of resources and staff shortages.

"We call on staff members to raise these issues with the institution's management and through their staff structures," he added.

He said the hospital served three major townships north of Durban - Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu. l See page 13