Broken machines and shortages vex Baragwanath Hospital

In a "last resort" to improve working conditions and consequently the quality of care they give to patients, eight doctors from Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto approached the Mail & Guardian in October with a list of problems they were experiencing at the facility.

Broken equipment, medication stock-outs and a lack of resources to deal with the enormous patient load were some of their concerns (published on October 25 2013), which were either ignored or treated with a lack of urgency by hospital management.

But their complaints seem to have fallen on deaf ears – hospital management has done almost nothing about their working conditions.

"In the two months since the story was published things have actually worsened," complained one of the doctors.

Broken equipment
One of the biggest issues raised by the doctors, which had dire implications for patients, was that broken equipment took months to get fixed if fixed at all.

A broken x-ray machine resulted in many botched operations in the orthopaedics department that had to be redone.

But, since the publication of the M&G story, the hospital has experienced more equipment break-downs.

"We have two CT scanners [computerised tomography scanners, which take detailed x-ray images of internal structures in the body and can be used to diagnose many conditions] and one broke about a month ago and it still hasn't been fixed," another doctor said.

"I spoke to one of the radiologists, who said the reason it hasn't been fixed is because the previous repair bills haven't been paid and the company refuses to help until they get their money," he said.

Gauteng health department spokesperson Simon Zwane said: "I know that hospital management is attending to the issue to get that working but there is still the other one, which is operational."

But doctors say that, because of the extra load, the only working scanner is also "starting to give problems".

Long wait
According to doctors, even urgent cases aren't being attended to because there are too many patients for one scanner.

"I had a patient who came in yesterday urinating a lot of blood. Today he is still only number 26 on the list and we can't do anything until we find the cause of the blood – and for that we need to do this scan," said one doctor.

He said the urgency of this patient's case means that a scan should have been done immediately after he was admitted.

Another concern raised was that, at Lillian Ngoyi Clinic, right next to the hospital, there was no working electrocardiogram machine, which measures the heart's activity and can detect a heart attack, an enlarged heart or heart failure, as well as many other conditions.

According to Zwane, the electronic functioning of the machine was in order and that "staff broke the lid during use".

He said that the hospital had asked for a technician to replace the lid soon.

One M&G Online reader, posting anonymously, commented: "I spent three years at Bara, dealing with the same issues. Basic levels of hygiene and care were completely ignored by a fat, lazy chief executive who sat in her ivory office tower with beautiful furnishings while our poor patients languished in unsanitary conditions. There was even a time when Panado was out of stock at the pharmacy! I couldn't deal with the working conditions, the inability to serve these poor people who deserved so much more."

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Ma Lindi, we will gather for tea and cake

A South African hero has died. But because of Covid-19 we can’t hold a memorial for her, just yet

Alexandra’s black market for booze under lockdown

Underground liquor has a long history in South Africa. Its next chapter is being written under the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown

Love will win when I can’t protect him

"Perhaps a feminist deity gave birth to feminist sons so they could raise the sort of men they would have wanted to be surrounded by."

Struggle’s fighters are still bleeding

An ex-freedom fighter tells of the psychological damage she brought back with her from exile

Baragwanath blames power cuts on two employees

The Gauteng department of health has given warning letters to two employees over power outages at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto.

Madonsela shocked at state of Baragwanath

Public protector Thuli Madonsela has expressed shock at the conditions at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto after paying it a surprise visit.

Subscribers only

The shame of 40 000 missing education certificates

Graduates are being left in the lurch by a higher education department that is simply unable to deliver the crucial certificates proving their qualifications - in some cases dating back to 1992

The living nightmare of environmental activists who protest mine expansion

Last week Fikile Ntshangase was gunned down as activists fight mining company Tendele’s expansions. Community members tell the M&G about the ‘kill lists’ and the dread they live with every day

More top stories

Fifteen witnesses for vice-chancellor probe

Sefako Makgatho University vice-chancellor Professor Peter Mbati had interdicted parliament last month from continuing with the inquiry

Constitutional Court ruling on restructuring dispute is good for employers

A judgment from the apex court empowers employers to change their workers’ contracts — without consultation

Audi Q8: Perfectly cool

The Audi Q8 is designed to be the king in the elite SUV class. But is it a victim of its own success?

KZN officials cash in on ‘danger pay for Covid-19’

Leadership failures at Umdoni local municipality in KwaZulu-Natal have caused a ‘very unhappy’ ANC PEC to fire the mayor and chief whip

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday