Patients discharged from Baragwanath Hospital this week roamed Soweto in their hospital pyjamas because striking non-medical staff had locked the clothing storage room. Nurses and doctors .had to break into the kitchen and cook their own food as the kitchen staff had bolted the doors and hidden the pots.
Medical staff also had to cook for the patients who, at the beginning of the strike, went without a meal. Baragwanath, one of the biggest hospitals in the southern hemisphere, was this week virtually brought to a standstill by the strike which has lasted four days so far. The strike has affected Baragwanath’s 11 clinics in Soweto. Pharmacy staff have also refused to work.
The hospital, which caters for about 1,5-million Soweto residents, normally accommodates 3 000 patients. But at 2pm yesterday there were only 1935 patients. In three days the hospital had discharged more than 1 000 patients. Yesterday, despite help from various volunteer groups, the situation continued to deteriorate. Workers said thousands of rands worth of linen would have to be discarded because it had begun to rot. There was a long queue of relatives and undertakers outside the mortuary.
The hospital’s public relations department refused journalists permission to inspect the morgues but said the situation was under control. Hospital officials said there bad been no deaths due to the strike. However, they were concerned that the unwashed linen could lead to the spread of infections. The most unusual sight at Baragwanath was that of the bare benches in the casualty ward. Doctors usually describe working in the overcrowded ward as a nightmare.
However, this week the hospital was only dealing with emergency cases. Earlier this week, Soweto residents hoping to be treated at the hospital were greeted by a placard stating: ”All patients to be referred to other hospitals. Hospital closed.” But most of Baragwanath’s neighbouring hospitals have also been affected by the strike. The notice was later removed.
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.