An eye-opening, detailed, comprehensive report on a probe conducted by Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, Health Ombudsman, head of the Office of Health Standards Compliance, was released by the Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla on March 14, 2023.
This followed numerous complaints that were lodged by some doctors about problems at that hospital, it also highlighted concerns that were expressed by communities that utilise the services of the hospital.
Wide-ranging findings were made by a group of 34 investigators who spent almost a year doing an investigation covering many areas of concern.
Chief among the concerns was the calibre of the CEO, with the Ombudsman stressing the importance of appointing a CEO with specific attributes, qualifications and knowledge because he/she is the driving force that determines the functioning of every department in the hospital; the role of administrators, human resources, procurement, management of infrastructure, security of the hospital, medical and nursing staff.
There were many maintenance and infrastructure problems.
He was disappointed that the hospital was not classified as a tertiary institution, this is because the funding allocated to hospitals depends on the status of the hospital - Rahima Moosa being a specialist hospital.
The hygienic environment was also described as neglected, dirty, unsafe and filthy. There was also overcrowding with 40% of the maternity patients being foreigners who come from neighbouring countries, specifically to exploit the services of this hospital as they generally do with other health services in our country.
Some of the pregnant women were sleeping on the floor. The overcrowding also resulted in some of the neonates getting nosocomial infections.
He decried the fact that the hospital did not have an ICU, blood bank and a laboratory. The blood bank being crucial in maternity services as there are usually expectations of blood loss.
There was also a shortage of doctors and nurses. Dr Phaahla was happy with the report, promising that they will look into all the improvements that the health department has to undertake.
While promises were made to improve the situation, I wished that the finance minister could have been there, listening to all the multiple problems because most of them are due to an extremely deficient budget.
When an example was given of a manager who brought some self-made cleaning solution to clean for skin preparation in theatre, I remembered how we also ran out of the skin preparation lotion for theatre, sometimes spending time without autoclave testing agents to ensure 100% sterilisation of drapes and instruments, because there was no money to buy them.
We usually received a budget in May which would be depleted by August, and when you complained, you would simply be told the hospital does not have funds anymore.
The strangest thing is that all the efforts to try and fight for a better budget allocation for health services have always fallen on deaf ears.
So, the Ombudsman will still be confronted with the same problems the next time he conducts a similar probe at Rahima Moosa Hospital, unless the finance minister finds it in his heart to take health care seriously.
A fact that prompted me to ask one day during an inspection, what was the use of these inspections if all the problems identified are never addressed?
And I received no answer from the person from OHSC. But, the truth is that the findings reflected in this report are the same as those found in a 2017 inspection with everything remaining unchanged.
Cometh Dube-Makholwa Midrand