Thursday, October 22, 2009

Public heathcare in meltdown

(Sapa) - The University of the Free State's medical school is in danger of being closed down, its acting head told Parliament on Wednesday.


"..said there had been no coherent plan or policy for healthcare in the Free State for the last 15 years."

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"There is a real issue of whether the school of medicine should be closed down in the Free State," Andries Stulting told Parliament's portfolio committee on health.


"This is due to a permanent lack of training programmes, decreased student numbers and a decreased national subsidy for training."

Stulting, who painted a dire picture of public healthcare in the Free State, said he had doubts about whether Bloemfontein would be able to host the 2010 college exams for medical students.

"There is a question on whether Bloemfontein has the capacity to host these exams," he said. There was a "great financial crisis" in the province's health care.

"Is health care a priority in Free State? Unfortunately, clearly not."

The province had seen a decline in life expectancy, unacceptably high mortality figures and a perceived disintegration of primary health care.

"There is a collapse of systems in the Free State. TB, HIV, primary health care, hospital services, training platforms, research, you name it, we are declining.

"We can't do elective surgery anymore. Patients with hernias and cataracts. They don't seem to be emergencies, so we cannot operate.

People go blind and people can't do their work.

"We don't have basic things like eye pads, eye shields, medications... or should we keep quiet because we can be reprimanded?"

He said the Pelonomi public hospital in Bloemfontein was in crisis, with failing equipment, crowded wards and a staff shortage.

In some disciplines there had been a 50 percent reduction in beds.

"For example internal medicine -- half of beds were taken away.

So where are other the 50 percent of patients? They are not in hospital."

Stulting said the hospital had placed eight patients in a four-bed ward.

"Can you understand the problems that would create for the nursing staff?"

There had been a failure to appoint staff at the hospital.

In some situations there were surgeons, but no doctors to give anaesthetics. There were also no dedicated trauma and orthopaedic theatres, while medical consumables were regularly out of stock.

"There is nothing like diamox or drops to put in eyes. It's basic things you need."

Two weeks ago the hospital did not have a working ECG (electrocardiogram) machine.

"So someone comes in with pain you can't do an electro cardiogram. That is unacceptable in a country like SA."

Stulting said there had been no coherent plan or policy for healthcare in the Free State for the last 15 years.

"There was inefficient planning and management and the marginalising of academic institutions," he said.

This was "not only a Free State problem, it is a national problem".

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