Hospital absenteeism adds to woes

Image: Tyler Olson/

It is a concern that most of Gauteng's public hospitals have a staff attendance rate that is far below the 90% acceptable standard set by the Gauteng health department.

Six of seven largest hospitals in the province do not meet the acceptable standard rate. This was said by health MEC Bandile Masuku, in a written answer to questions by the DA's Jack Bloom in the Gauteng legislature.

Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital had the least number of staff showing up for work last year, with only 72% recorded, while Helen Joseph Hospital came up tops and was the only facility meeting the standard at 93%.

Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and Tembisa Hospital had the second-highest rate of attendance with 89%, followed by Kalafong Hospital with 87%, Steve Biko Hospital with 86%, and George Mukhari Hospital with 83%.

According to Bloom, Masuku said reasons for low attendance varied from sick leave to family responsibility leave, among other reasons.

That Helen Joseph Hospital is meeting the acceptable standard rate is commendable.

The leadership there must be doing something right in managing the hospital's staff members and managers from the underperforming hospitals should be sent there to learn from them.

Already, overcrowding is a serious problem for public hospitals in the province. And some disease outbreaks claimed more lives than they should have because of this challenge.

After all, having fewer staff members in a facility accommodating more patients than it should makes the situation even worse.

The department should investigate why its hospitals have such low attendance numbers.

It could be poor management or low staff morale, as Bloom speculated.

Whatever the reason, it all boils down to management and proper leadership - ensuring that the employer offers a pleasant and healthy working environment.

And also making sure that discipline is enforced where employees are taking advantage of the system by abusing sick leave.

The department must hold the managers of the low-attendance hospitals to account.