Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

Health workers' unions have lashed out at the provincial department of health for the poor quality of health care at state hospitals.

This comes after the Mahatma Gandhi Hospital in Phoenix again made headlines, this time for negligence that led to about 22 patients going on a hunger strike.

The patients at the hospital were waiting to be treated for broken and fractured bones and chronic illnesses - some for as long as six months.

They refused to eat for four days, demanding better service. Yesterday health trade unions said most of the province's hospitals had a shortage of staff and lacked qualified health professionals.

Cassim Lekhoathi, provincial secretary of the Democratic Nurses' Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), said the poor standard of care at state hospitals was indicative of the staff's heavy workload. Staff vacancies, especially in rural hospitals, were not being filled.

"We don't have qualified health care workers because there is a lack of proper training," said Lekhoathi.

The National Education Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) said they were arranging an urgent high-level meeting with the management of Mahatma Gandhi Hospital and the department of health.

Provincial health department spokesman Leon Mbangwa yesterday denied there was a hunger strike at the hospital .

" Patients who need medical treatment for fractured or broken bones have been transferred to Durban's Albert Luthuli Hospital. Only Addington Hospital and Albert Luthuli have the equipment to deal with these cases and the machine at Addington is broken, hence the backlog."