NURSES are being forced to dispense medicines to patients at some clinics in Mpumalanga because of a shortage of pharmacists.
An in-depth report on service delivery in the Mkhondo municipality, which includes the town of Piet Retief, paints a shocking picture of the state of health services in the area.
And, the Sunday Times found during a visit to the Piet Retief Hospital, locals are unhappy about the poor service.
A local resident, Nessie Lushaba, said her husband, Mika, 73, who suffered a severe stroke, died on February 12 - a day after his family discharged him because of alleged bad treatment.
Lushaba was admitted on January 31, but was left to lie on his bed in his soiled underwear for hours.
"They [nurses] used to let him lie like that and wait for me to clean him," Nessie said.
She claimed that the nurses simply left his food next to his bedside, knowing that he could not eat without being assisted.
The report compiled by the Mpumalanga legislature's research policy and knowledge management unit, follows an investigation into, among other things, services offered by Piet Retief Hospital, as well as six of 11 health centres and clinics.
One of the biggest problems identified was the dire shortage of doctors and nurses. There are 315 vacancies at the hospital for medical and non-medical staff.
According to the report, some health facilities were forced to hire retired nurses.
"The department does not fill the positions that become vacant, and most of the newly trained nurses resign to work in other provinces because of the shortage of accommodation," the report stated.
Other damning findings include:
- There is no full-time doctor at the Amsterdam Clinic, and staff members have to use their own money to buy stationery and cleaning materials;
- The blood-pressure machine at the Amsterdam Clinic reflected wrong readings, and the generator has not been working since 2006;
- Medical waste at Driefontein Community Health Centre is attracting maggots because waste is not collected; and
- The dire shortage of medical equipment at the Iswepe Community Health Centre, including the lack of a heart machine, blood-pressure monitor and a machine that measures the foetal heartbeat during pregnancy.
A staff member at Piet Retief Hospital said patients had not been served vegetables, beef and mutton for months. "We are worried because patients suffering from hypertension and diabetes need to have vegetables and meat in their diet," the staff member said.
Staff were recently forced to borrow sugar from the nearby Carolina Hospital after the kitchen at Piet Retief ran out of supplies.
Mpumalanga Health Department spokesman Dumisani Mlangeni said the legislature's report "correctly captures the gaps in health service delivery, meaning acute shortage of medical staff, inconsistent distribution of drugs, and ageing infrastructure and equipment".