‘What if I have to go to hospital?’ – the situation at Settlers this week


Covid cases in Makhanda rose to 363 this week. Anxious residents want to know whether our town’s hospital has the capacity to care for them should they get sick – and where they can go if it can’t. Grocott’s Mail heard some individual accounts which, when added together, paint a poor picture. But we also spoke to patients, professionals and officials who offer a different perspective. We’ve done our best to provide a situation report on Settlers Hospital this week that is reasonably balanced. We hope it reassures you if you have to go to hospital.

The individual reports we heard this week:

A series of WhatsApp messages circulating among Makhanda residents last weekend stirred outrage about alleged conditions at Settlers Hospital. They claimed bad attitudes among staff, meals served hours after they were due and, most concerning, Covid patients not being given the oxygen critical to their recovery.

Other sources told Grocott’s Mail that:
* Emergency equipment was not maintained;
* Doctors were unhappy and were leaving the hospital for this reason; that there were not enough doctors left to ensure there is always a doctor on duty; that on a recent weekend, there was no doctor on duty at all;
* With very few nurses, and none dedicated to the Covid ward, nurses were crossing between Covid and non-Covid wards to take observations, raising the risk of cross-infection;
* The hospital was not coping with a high number of Covid patients;
* No one was taking accountability for ensuring the facility was properly managed, with the CEO frequently absent. Management themselves were not monitored because the Hospital Board expired a year ago;
* The hospital’s admission practices discriminated against patients with private medical aid, telling them they should go to a private hospital; however,  private hospitals in Port Elizabeth were refusing to take cases from outside the Metro because they are full.


Here are the Department of Health’s responses to some of our questions

How many nurses work at the hospital?
92 Professional Nurses including 6 Community Service Professional Nurses
31 Enrolled Nurses
42 Enrolled Nursing Auxiliaries.
Among the above, 4 Professional Nurses, 1 Enrolled Nurse and 1 Enrolled Nursing Assistant are Covid contract nurses.

How many doctors at Settlers Hospital?
6 permanent, who will remain in their posts;
3 Community Service doctors (these are the doctors who will leave at the end of their contract, at the end of this month);
2 Clinical associates.

Please comment on alleged poor staff attitude, late mealtimes as reported on social media last weekend?
This is being investigated.

Was there a shortage of oxygen for Covid patients as reported on social media last weekend?
There is no shortage of oxygen at Settlers Hospital; in fact Settlers had enough extra to be able to supply Port Alfred Hospital when they ran short.

How many Covid patients are currently at Settlers (as of Thursday 19 November)?
17 Covid-positive patients and 9 patients under investigation


Oversight and the Settlers Hospital Board
The Settlers Hospital Board has expired. A call for nominations for a new Board was advertised in a regional newspaper on 3 November. Community structures are invited to nominate representatives for a new Board.
Nomination forms: Available from the Acting CEO of Settlers Hospital
Deadline: Return nominations to the Acting CEO by 25 November
Process: The nominations are sent to the MEC who will appoint a single selection committee, for all Eastern Cape hospital boards.
(Source: Ms Ndileka Velezantsi, Deputy Director for District Health Planning)


Netcare manages Greenacres Hospital – here’s what they told Grocott’s Mail

There is no existing policy that states that Netcare Greenacres Hospital does not accept patients from out of town. The process remains the same as before where doctors in surrounding areas would contact a physician (specialist) for a referral.  If the specialist accepts the referral the patient can be transferred to Netcare Greenacres Hospital. Of course it does depend on the condition of the patient and the availability of beds.  This is managed at the time of referral.
(Source: Andre Bothma, area general manager Eastern Cape of Netcare’s hospital division).

Life Healthcare manages St George’s Hospital – here’s what they told Grocott’s Mail:

Life Healthcare is aware of the increasing number of positive Covid-19 patients within the Eastern Cape region. We are continuously, addressing the situation on the ground and have solid safety measures and processes in place to manage this.

Doctors in the area have been informed to ensure that patients are referred to facilities that have available specialists and sufficient bed capacity.

The bed capacity situation across all of our hospitals is fluid and is being reassessed frequently. Our hospital management teams remain in constant contact with one another, their doctors and other healthcare professionals and private hospital groups as well as provincial health authorities to ensure that additional beds are available should this be required.

We urge the community to please assist the hospitals in combating the virus. It is vitally important to continue to adhere to key safety measures such as mask wearing, social distancing and hand hygiene.

We wish to thank our doctors, nurses, healthcare workers and all of our employees for their ongoing and tireless efforts in managing our hospitals and caring for our patients under the current circumstances.
(Source: Dr Charl van Loggerenberg, GM: Emergency Medicine, Life Healthcare)


My Settlers Hospital experience

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