Ailing hospital saved
All it takes to turn a hospital around and get it ready for the National Health Insurance scheme is a bit of "common sense".
This is according to Dr Naing Soe, acting CEO of the Tshwane District Hospital, who has been lauded for turning the ailing facility into a "humane place".
Soe found the hospital in a terrible state when he took over in March 2010, with patients daily screaming at him about long waiting times.
"It was dirty and full of cockroaches. Chairs for patients were broken, staff had no fridges and the toilets had no seats," said Soe.
After instituting several changes in the daily operations, Soe managed to save R8-million in two years, which he reinvested in the hospital's refurbishment.
He reupholstered the chairs, bought water coolers, renovated staff and public toilets, planted roses in the garden and erected awnings for staff cars.
This, he said, was done to make patients proud of the hospital and staff motivated.
Using the hospital's equipment budget, he bought new digital X-ray equipment, a portable X-ray machine for immobile patients, a scanning machine and brand new wheelchairs.
Hospital management, he said, was a matter of "human common sense and a caring attitude".
Dr Philemon Mahuma, a senior medical officer who was at the hospital before Soe arrived, said the acting CEO had "brought a breath of fresh air to the hospital".
"With excellent people skills and a humanitarian heart, he has befriended everyone and won the esteem of all levels of staff, who collaborate with him, contributing to the amazing results we are witnessing," said Mahuma.
"In addition to being an experienced clinician, his handyman skills, and humility to tackle even the most menial task, pleasantly surprised many of us.
"The building is 100 years old and Dr Soe inspects it and is able to fix it without involving private contractors."
Eunice Khoza, who has been working in the hospital's kiosk for seven years, said: "A lot has changed. The hospital is now a humane place."
Tshwane is one of the 11 areas recently identified by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi for the N HI pilot project.
"If NHI comes here we are ready," said Soe, who listed all the "non-negotiables" Motsoaledi had said must be in place for NHI to work.
The list includes cleanliness, good staff attitudes, infection control, decent infrastructure and equipment, and adequate medical supplies.
Soe has ensured that the hospital meets these requirements.
He saved the R8-million by, among other things, ordering doctors to be more specific in their requests for blood tests, cutting the number of tests needed.
He believes that junior doctors must be offered more guidance during their internship and community service.
Motsoaledi last month advertised 90 CEO hospital posts to ensure that qualified medical and managerial staff are hired to run hospitals.
Soe is hoping to secure a permanent position.
Department of Health spokesman Fidel Hadebe said Soe "is a shining example of how things can be turned around by good management".
"He took the initiative and worked in partnership with the department," he said.
Soe, who is from Burma, first came to South Africa in 1995 and worked at Pretoria West Hospital.
He calls South Africa his home and said its doctors were excellent.