DA oversight reveals dangerous conditions persists at Witbank Hospital

Issued by Michele Clarke MP – DA Shadow Minister of Health
30 Jul 2023 in News

Last week, the DA conducted an oversight to the Witbank Provincial Hospital, mere weeks after assisting a pregnant woman in distress at the facility.

Unfortunately, our visit revealed that little has been done to address the shocking and dangerous conditions that endangered Cindy Steyn and her baby’s life.

Severe shortages of beds, personnel and supplies, medicine stock-outs, maintenance and equipment failures that creates an unsafe and unsanitary facility, and mismanagement of available space to provide necessary health services are just some of the systemic failures that places patients’ lives in unnecessary danger.

The DA has requested that both the Health Ombud, Prof Taole Mokoena, and Human Rights Commission investigate the situation.

Had her partner, Pierre Botha, not managed to contact DA Shadow Minister of Health, Michele Clarke, Cindy Steyn might not be alive to tell her harrowing tale.

She was 22 weeks pregnant when her appendix burst while waiting to be seen at the Witbank Provincial Hospital. After hours of waiting, she had her appendix removed and was admitted to the surgical ward where she allegedly experienced neglect and abuse and bore witness to the ill-treatment of many of the other patients in her ward.

After her discharge, Cindy was instructed to attend the local clinic every two days for wound care. However, her wounds became infected and septic, and she was referred back to Witbank Hospital on 16 June, where she was initially refused treatment.

At this point, Michele Clarke, was alerted to Cindy’s dire situation and called Dr Nicholas Crisp, Deputy Director-General at the Department of Health, on whose instruction the personnel at Witbank Hospital finally deigned to treat Cindy.

A few weeks later, Cindy started experiencing severe cramps. She was rushed to hospital, where she was initially refused a Caesarean section, even though a nurse experienced with her wounds and treatment warned staff that Cindy would be unable to deliver her baby another way.

While Cindy has been discharged and only needs to visit Witbank Hospital for wound care, she has not been issued with the required antibiotics to prevent re-infection of her wounds due to a stock-out at the hospital.

Unfortunately, Cindy’s experience is one echoed at many public health facilities all over the country that suffer from the same mismanagement and lack of care systemic of the public health system.

Hospitals should be places of safety and peace where patients receive quality care. Yet, many people subjected to public health care fear for their lives, not knowing if they will leave hospitals sicker than when they entered. Unless the systemic ineptitude, callousness, and mismanagement is rooted out completely, the public health sector will continue to crumble.

It is a terrible tragedy that the ANC government continues to tout the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill as the silver bullet, all the while knowing that it’s destined to fail because they refuse to the things that will actually turn the tide – holding corrupt cadres, useless managers and uncaring staff to account.