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KZN minister hears of patients’ long wait for medicine

Patients at Durban’s Addington Hospital on Tuesday told KwaZulu-Natal health minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo that they waited more than a week to get their much-needed medication.

Dhlomo arrived at the hospital unannounced on Tuesday morning following reports the facility was unable to cope with a backlog caused by the health professionals’ strike in June.

Patients told Dhlomo they did not get medication despite having started queuing for it as early as 4am. There were about 1 000 people waiting for medication when the MEC arrived at the hospital just after 8am. Some had been waiting for medication for more than a week.

The line was so long that some patients had to be taken to the hospital canteen, which was being used as a waiting area.

”Here at the canteen we give patients numbers. Getting a number does not mean that you will get medication. When the pharmacy closes, people have to come the following day.

”The problem that we have is that doctors continue writing scripts for patients to come and get medication and the backlog continues to get worse,” said a hospital pharmacy employee.

The pharmacy manager told Dhlomo the backlog was caused by pharmacists who took part in the doctors’ strike in June.

”The majority of pharmacy staff took part in the strike for two days. Since then we have been experiencing serious problems when it comes to dispensing medication,” he said.

Sydney van Rooyen, a patient with high blood pressure, said he had been waiting for his medication for more than a week.

”When I came here on July 7, they told me to come back today. I wish the Department of Health can swiftly sort out this problem because it is affecting a lot of people.”

Goodness Gumede, another patient, said she arrived at the hospital at 5am on Monday and she was still waiting for medication.

”I visited the hospital because I was bleeding. I was forced to sleep here last night and I am still here waiting for medication.”

Addressing patients, Dhlomo promised to hire more people to work at the hospital pharmacy.

”We are looking at hiring temporary people to work in the pharmacy so that this backlog can be sorted out urgently. We really apologise for the inconvenience,” he said.

It was also discovered during the visit that the hospital beds were full and patients had to sleep and eat at the casualty ward. Casualty patients were not properly accommodated because the casualty area was full of beds.

Patients were eating their breakfast at the casualty unit when the minister arrived at the hospital. Dhlomo told nurses in charge of the casualty ward to discharge non-serious patients and to transfer others to King Edward VIII Hospital.

Nurses told Dhlomo they could not take patients to King Edward because that hospital was also full.

”The minister does not know what he is talking about. We can’t discharge sick people and we can’t take them to King Edward because it is full. It shows that he does not understand what happens on the ground and that irritates me,” one of the nurses said.

Mpume Ntshangase, a ward councillor in the area, said she was asked to visit the hospital last Friday to see the long queues outside the hospital.

”The situation was [worse] than today because people were queuing outside. It is better today because they are being accommodated at the canteen,” she said.

Speaking after the visit, Dhlomo said he had given management time to compile a report outlining all problems at the hospital.

He would take necessary actions after studying the report. –Sapa

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