Last week the Select Committee on Petitions and Executive Undertakings paid a visit to the hospital after complaints were received. During their walkabout, the committee members said they saw many patients lying on the floor and a large number of patients slumped in chairs, having been there since noon the previous day.
Committee chairperson, Dumisani Ximbi, said that complaints were received from various community organisations while whistle-blowers have often compared Khayelitsha District Hospital (KDH) to GF Jooste Hospital, with many saying “people merely come here to die”.
Western Cape Department of Health head, Dr Beth Engelbrecht said the manner in which the visit was conducted was traumatic to staff, with some threatening to leave.
“The manner of the visit was experienced as traumatic - being confrontational, blaming staff personally and directly for perceived poor service delivery. This incident took place in front of patients and the public. Within a high-pressure environment, it is very difficult for clinical front-line staff to be directly exposed to this type of interrogation when they are on duty. It interferes with their duty at the time,” she said.
Engelbrecht said the hospital had exceptional clinical leadership and good values-linked management practices.
“Losing senior clinical expertise would be very detrimental. KDH EC clinicians have an excellent international reputation. Training them takes many years, and their replacement becomes difficult. It is not only about finding the appropriate clinical skills, but also about finding the appropriate personal motivation to serve the community that makes the current potential loss stand out.”
Engelbecht said the challenges experienced at Khayelitsha District Hospital were similar to those at other facilities.
“There is a need for permanent nurses (many are agency staff members). There is also a very high emergency and trauma load, fuelled by violence, particularly over weekends. Management oversight processes and expert clinical leadership are in place. Extra staff are rostered where possible.”
Said Ximbi: “The buildings and equipment at KDH are of high standard, but the service delivered to the community of Khayelitsha is displeasing and unacceptable.”
He said the committee found the hospital was failing the people of Khayelitsha and the absence of the head of Khayelitsha Eastern Substructure Office, Dr Michael Phillips was unacceptable.
The hospital’s chief executive Dr Anwar Kharwa said that it became especially challenging over the weekends when the hospital faced a spike in trauma cases relating to violence.
“KHD is also having to carry the burden of patients from surrounding areas such as Mfuleni and Mitchells Plain,” he said.