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'I pray that he lives' - A mother prays as North West doctors are blocked from hospital

Dr Ebrahim Variava, who is being blocked from entering Tshepong hospital.
Dr Ebrahim Variava, who is being blocked from entering Tshepong hospital.
Image: Tiro Ramatlhatse

“I am just praying he will come out of this okay‚” says 77-year-old Rensia Hoffmann.

Her 56-year-old son Quinton is being treated for a respiratory infection at Tshepong hospital just outside Klerksdorp.

Protesters from Nehawu are blocking nurses and doctors from entering the hospital‚ a 450-bed facility that doctors describe as one of the few properly functioning hospitals in the North West province.

The hospital is running on a skeleton staff of about eight doctors‚ instead of the usual 32. Quinton was brain damaged at birth and his mother‚ who cares for him‚ says he “is a complete invalid”.

“He can’t walk‚ he can’t use his left arm and has a drip in his right arm. They need to feed him.”

“Are they feeding him?” she asked‚ concerned.

Hoffmann has not seen her son since he was admitted on Monday after what she thought may have been a “slight stroke”.

Dr Alastair Calver‚ a specialist who is standing outside the hospital and being denied access‚ said Quinton had a lower respiratory infection. “He gets very sick when he does get sick. He is a patient that should have had the flu injection two months ago [to prevent serious flu] but we have had no stock.”

Protesters from union Nehawu have stopped the medicine supply depot in the North West from functioning since February‚ leading to shortages of medicine across the province.

Hoffmann is very worried about her son. “He is such a loving person. I take care of him. He is so dependent [on others]. I am totally hoping he will come out of this alive. I haven’t seen him since he was admitted.”

Wits professor and internal medicine specialist Ebrahim Variava has been trying to get access to the hospital to treat patients. But Nehawu protesters are standing in a circle and singing‚ “Goodbye‚ Goodbye‚ Goodbye‚ Variava.”

Police asked Variava to open a case of intimidation but he refused.

“I am trying to speak sense to them. They are denying treatment to the poorest of the poor. The people they serve [need doctors].”

He said that patients inside the hospital were extremely ill and could die.

Patients coming to fetch medicine are being allowed in but the hospital staff are not. Laboratory staff who test patients’ blood for illnesses were also denied access‚ as were mortuary workers.

About 20 armed police arrived around 10:20 to try and resolve the impasse.

Nehawu protesters refused to speak to the media and threatened to break a TimesLIVE journalist’s phone. However‚ the protest remains peaceful.

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