Expectant mothers sleeping on chairs and hospital floors, crumbling infrastructure, management deficiencies, and a paediatric and child health facility with no blood bank, laboratory facility or intensive care unit (ICU).
These are some of the damning findings contained in the report of the Health Ombudsman, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, who was tasked with investigating allegations against Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital (RMMCH) in Johannesburg.
The investigation follows a complaint lodged by a Member of Parliament’s Health Portfolio Committee on 6 April 2022 into allegations of the circumstances relating to the care of expectant mothers at RMMCH.
The probe was also prompted by a video that went viral, which was posted by Patriotic Alliance MMC [Member of the Mayoral Committee] of Health and Social Development, Ashley Sauls, of heavily pregnant women sleeping on chairs and floors in April last year.
Speaking to media in Pretoria on Tuesday, Makgoba said he spent a year investigating complaints and interviewed 34 people at the hospital.
He said “dirty, filthy and unsafe” were some of the common words used to describe the state of the hospital, which was built in 1943.
“The most striking thing is that this hospital has been neglected for years,” Makgoba said.
According to findings, the hospital’s infrastructure is in shambles, with free-flowing sewage within buildings, and a foul-smelling environment, while its ablution facilities are filthy.
In addition, leaking steam pipes lead to poor heating inside the wards.
Due to overcrowding, according to the report, clinical decisions were made based on what was written on the patient file without assessing the patient thoroughly in antenatal wards.
“The hospital also has security challenges and a shortage of nursing staff,” the Professor revealed.
He said the challenges of overcrowding, lack of staff, and a dire shortage of nurses compromised the health and well-being of healthcare workers.
“Significantly, these challenges affect patients’ safety by placing patients’ lives at risk.”
Shifting his focus to the CEO, Dr Nozuko Precious Mkabayi, Makgoba said she was not working full-time to ensure everything runs smoothly.
On the question, of whether the CEO had spent 182 days at the hospital since her appointment on 1 January 2021, investigators concluded that there were 21 days in 2021 and 72 days in 2022 that were unaccounted for, and there were substantive irregularities regarding her leave.
State of Gauteng health
In addition, the Ombudsman said there were several lapses in the appointment of CEOs in the Gauteng Health Department.
“The CEOs of hospitals are the highest level in the hospital services that determine the direction around which the quality service is provided and feed into the Minister and MECs depend on their own interpretation in the health service by the CEOs.”
Overall, Makgoba described the Gauteng Health Department as “a mess”.
Some of the recommendations include the appointment of a suitable permanent RMMCH CEO, who is fit for purpose and the transfer of Mkabayi to the Gauteng Health Department provincial office.
“I also think that Rahima Moosa should be prioritised for infrastructure refurbishment and appointment of competent people at all levels,” said Makgoba.
In addition, the report suggests that the provincial Department of Health prioritise and fast-track the gazetting of RMMCH as a tertiary hospital and receive a sizeable grant, within eight months.
Meanwhile, Health Minster, Dr Joe Phaahla, has welcomed the report.
“We will engage with the provincial department to secure the necessary funding to allocate for the infrastructure refurbishment of Rahima Moosa,” he said, adding that it will work to reform the human resource and procurement policies to allow agility in response to the immediate challenges.
Phaahla said they will look into health facilities to ensure that there is an improvement.
“There’s no longer an excuse about the COVID-19 pandemic. We can no longer use it as an excuse for why certain things aren’t done,” he said.
Source: South African Government News Agency