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Serious questions about core standards at hospital

News - Date: 07 May 2017

Written by: Isabel Venter / Viewed: 1673


Louis Trichardt Memorial Hospital apparently has no standards; that is to say, no National Core Health Standards as set out by the Department of Health.

Core standards were compiled to ensure that quality health service is provided to all those who need it in a time of a medical crisis. 

Despite much-needed upgrades being made at the hospital now, the hospital seems to be suffering from a serious lack of control at an administrative level, especially when it comes to hygiene and cleanliness.

The Zoutpansberger managed to visit the hospital at least three times during April after a shocked reader had shared his experiences at the hospital. “Have you been to the hospital lately?” was the first question the reader asked. He preferred to remain anonymous.

The man reached out to the newspaper after paying a visit to his cousin (who suffered from complications after a mild stroke) at the hospital over a period of two weeks. During his visits, the man noticed that the hospital inside was steadily becoming filthier by the day. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was, however, a massive blood stain that was left unchecked right in the middle of the casualty ward’s entrance. Visitors and patients had to walk around the blood.

When the newspaper arrived at the hospital on 12 April, a cleaner was busy washing away the blood stain. This, the man explained, happened because he got fed up and approached a family member who is employed in the hospital’s administrative office to complain. He was outraged to learn that the memorial hospital had no cleaning staff available to do the job. According to the man, the hospital had failed to renew the cleaning company’s contract in time, and had to resort to borrowing cleaners from the local offices of the Department of Agriculture. “I suspect that it is them cleaning the blood now,” said the man while walking past the entrance of the casualty ward.

While visiting the man’s cousin, the newspaper could take a closer look at the state of affairs in the hospital. The grounds were grubby and overgrown with weeds. Both the pavement outside the hospital and the garden inside the grounds were full of torn black bags. Half-discarded litter could be seen all over the place.  

With regard to the situation inside the hospital, signs of construction work could be seen. As far as the newspaper was able to determine, some of the wards are being expanded to accommodate more beds.

The casualty ward, however, was clearly not under construction, but rather just in a state of total dilapidation. Unhinged medicine cupboards were to be seen everywhere among the minefield of medical waste trollies that visitors had to navigate to get to what is supposed to be the “reception desk”. This desk, the newspaper learned during a visit the week before the blood-stain incident, doubles as the administrative desk as well. The hospital, it seems, has no computer system where records of patients are kept. Instead, there is a book much like those that security guards use to check in visitors, which is used to keep record of patients admitted.

At the back, towards the specialists’ offices of the hospital, a heap of broken wheelchairs are left to rot away under some trees.

The situation at the hospital is, however, nothing new. In 2011, during the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health’s visit to the hospital, they highlighted several problems with regard to safety, hygiene, the control of infectious diseases, inadequate equipment and medicine shortages. An independent report by the Health Systems Trust also gave the Louis Trichardt Memorial Hospital an unsatisfactory score in their Performance Assessments Report published for the term 2008 to 2010.

Media enquiries about the state of affairs at the Louis Trichardt Memorial Hospital were forwarded to the provincial Department of Health (DoH) after the hospital's CEO, Dr Irene Malatji, refused to comment.

Asked whether the hospital met the terms of the department’s National Core Health Standards, the provincial department said that it did not. According to law, state hospitals need to be inspected in terms of the standards, so that a compliance certificate can be issued. The newspaper could not find any record that the hospital has ever been issued with one.

“The hospital is currently not yet assessed and we are regrettably not in a position to provide any further information because the dates of assessment are not communicated to us in advance. We shall gladly share the results of (the) assessment immediately after assessment,” said provincial DoH spokesperson Mr Thabiso Teffo.

Teffo denied allegations that the hospital was filthy because of a lack of cleaners, saying that the reported blood stain, if it ever happened, was an isolated incident.

Teffo added that the hospital had never used the services of a private company for cleaning and, as a result, the issue of budgeting did not arise. "We have never, under any circumstances, borrowed cleaners from any government department, let alone the Department of Agriculture. We have our own cleaners who are currently doing the work and the Department of Health is also finalizing the appointment of new extra cleaners. Interviews have already been conducted to that effect,” said Teffo.

Regarding the fact that people go to the media to complain about the state of affairs at the hospital, Teffo urged the hospital's “clients” to rather bring these complaints to the attention of the hospital management for further investigation.


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Isabel Venter

Isabel joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in 2009 as a reporter. She holds a BA Degree in Communication Sciences from the University of South Africa. Her beat is mainly crime and court reporting.


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louis trichard, memorial hospital, national core health standards, department of health