Parliament hears of poor state of public hospitals

South Africa’s public hospitals are in a bleak state with failing equipment, a lack of basic consumables and dwindling numbers of doctors, Parliament heard on Wednesday.

Professor Bongani Mayozi, the head of internal medicine at the University of Cape Town, told the portfolio committee on health it was taking up to three days for patients to get a bed in a public hospital.

”It takes about 24 hours a day for us to put 50% of people into a bed,” he said.

”These people are sitting on a chair or lying on a trolley. They are very sick. They need to be admitted. Some people wait up to three days to get into a bed.

”We regard this situation as completely unacceptable. Something that you would not wish on your mother or father.”

Mayozi said surgical lists in many centres had been cut, equipment had not been renewed and there had been an overall decrease in tertiary level beds. The capacity to train new doctors had also been severely diminished.

”When you go to war you need troops. You can’t fight a war without soldiers.”

South Africa is producing 0,58 doctors per 1 000 people, he said. Brazil and Mexico, with a similar gross domestic product per capita, are producing nearly two doctors per 1 000.

”As a result of this, South Africa’s infant mortality rate is a lot higher than it should be and more people are dying from infectious diseases,” he said.

Mayozi said the situation had arisen due to an ”increasing demand” with ”diminishing resources”.

”When one looks at the reasons for the lack of progress, they are not difficult to find. They are related to under-investment to our public health sector over the past 15 years.”

Andries Stulting, the acting head of the school of medicine at the University of the Free State, said the province’s healthcare situation is in a dire position.

”There is a collapse of systems in the Free State. TB, HIV, primary healthcare, hospital services, training platforms, research, you name it, we are declining.

”We can’t do elective surgery anymore [such as] patients with hernias and cataracts. They don’t seem to be emergencies, so we cannot operate. People go blind and people can’t do their work.

”We don’t have basic things like eye pads, eye shields, medications … or should we keep quiet because we can be reprimanded?

”I hope I can give you some good news, but at the moment there is none.” — Sapa

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