The dead are just piling up at King Edward VIII Hospital
Leaking roofs and no lifts in what was once the pride of Durban
The family of a Durban man admitted to hospital for renal failure were forced to carry his limp frame down several flights of stairs for a critical test because the lifts at King Edward VIII Hospital in the city did not work. Just hours after the tests, he died.
The lifts in the hospital have not worked since a major storm hit Durban several weeks ago. This has left patients without access to surgery or scans.
Doctors, nurses and police search-and-rescue teams have had to drag corpses to the mortuary as these started piling up in upstairs wards.
Staff say conditions at the hospital are unbearable, with asbestos in the roofs, leaking ceilings, broken infrastructure and the stench of urine and sewage.The 62-year-old man's death three weeks ago at the hospital is just one example of a facility in disrepair. The hospital was once a premier teaching institution and the second-largest of its kind in the country.
The South African Medical Association reported the facility to the Department of Labour, which is to investigate the conditions for patients and staff.
The association's spokesman, Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa, said patients were bound to suffer complications and could die if nothing was done.
"Patients for abdominal operations are developing complications when wounds become septic due to lack of sterility caused by leaking roofs and nonfunctional airconditioners," he said.
"The staff and patients fear that roofs may collapse on them since [the roofs] portray signs of instability such as leakage."There are reports that corpses had to be dragged down on the staircases to the ground floor. This makes it hard to take patients to do investigations like X-rays when lifts are not working, so patients are adversely affected and may end up dying."
He said the association reported the hospital to the Department of Labour after efforts to meet hospital management were unsuccessful.
A report by an interministerial team investigating health infrastructure highlighted the state of the 80-year-old hospital.
"A lack of maintenance and [the failure in] upgrading the building in many areas runs the risk of [the building] becoming structurally unsound," the statement said.
The report noted that the lifts were regularly out of service and that the operating theatres posed a risk to patients.A doctor, who spoke to the Sunday Times on condition of anonymity, said the hospital was crumbling around those working in it.
"The smell of urine and human waste fills this place and when it rains it runs down the walls," the doctor said.
"This is a place where we are expected to work and where we are expected to help those who are sick and injured. We can't."