The Sunday Independent

Hospital stay a ‘living nightmare’


“I’M lucky I made it home safely. I’m lucky I made it out of that hospital alive with my baby,” said a young mother of her experience of sleeping on the cold floor of the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in Johannesburg three months ago.

The hospital is the only dedicated mother and child public hospital in South Africa. It has 225 beds and delivers 16000 babies a year — on average, 44 a day.

As with the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital down the road, it takes its name from a Struggle stalwart. Sadly, though, the reality is unflatteringly grim.

A video surfaced three months ago of pregnant women sleeping on the cold floor at the Rahima Moosa hospital. Ashley Sauls, a member of the mayoral committee of health and social development in Johannesburg, posted the video showing pregnant women on the floor, while others were seen trying to sleep in chairs in the early hours of the morning.

New mother Channah Adams, 22, from Claremont, Johannesburg, said she went through hell at the hospital in February to give birth. She was one of the women sleeping on the floors in the hospital ward.

“On February 1, I started getting labour pains, only to have to sit with my pains for three days because apparently the labour ward was full and the beds were occupied. I was there for three days and I was with the first group of women. We had to scream at the nurses to get help.

“There was a woman who we could see was ready to give birth, as she was in pain and she kept asking for help. There was no nurse in sight. Only when we screamed for help did a nurse come into the ward,” Adams said.

She said there were quite a lot of them in that ward and some women didn’t even have chairs on which to sit. She gave birth on February 3 and said she couldn’t sleep in the three days she was there.

“There were open beds and we were told those beds were used to check patients’ dilation. We were sleeping on chairs and it was very uncomfortable for us.

“The disrespect that women endure during birth at Rahima Moosa hospital is inhumane. A moment that was supposed to be special turned into a living nightmare. These nurses don’t know the definition of ‘nurse’.

“This is still a drop in the ocean compared to what’s happening in the delivery rooms. I almost lost my life because of negligence and almost lost my baby,” she said.

Adams considers herself lucky that she was discharged with her healthy baby boy who’s now three months old.

The hospital in Coronationville has tight security and is strict about who enters the hospital and for what purpose. When Sunday Independent arrived to visit the hospital, entry was denied as only pregnant women and mothers with valid clinic cards are allowed to enter.

According to the Gauteng Department of Health, the hospital has taken note of the complaint and the matter has since been escalated to its Quality and Assurance Unit for investigation.

The department said over the past decade the hospital has experienced an increased patient load, from 10000 to 16 000 deliveries per year, which is the second-highest in the country after the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. It has a 228 approved bed occupancy rate of 115% in obstetrics and neonates, it said.

The department said the hospital has re-purposed 22 beds to accommodate more antenatal patients in the past two years, bringing the total to 56, which is still insufficient as the hospital treats patients from Gauteng and other provinces.

“The Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital does not have a policy of turning away patients. It receives and treats patients as they arrive at the facility and refers them where possible.

“We continue to look at short-term measures to manage the patient inflow. However, the long-term solution is to increase the overall capacity of the health-care system in the region,” said Gauteng Health Department spokesperson Kwara Kekana.

The DA’s Gauteng shadow health MEC, Jack Bloom, said the department should admit that there is indeed a crisis.

“A case in point is the 16-year-old CT scanner that has been broken for more than three months at the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital.

“According to the department, the breakdown was due to normal wear and tear, and a part was ordered from the Netherlands.

“After it was installed, it was discovered that yet another part was faulty, which was ordered from Philips SA, but it turned out that there was yet another fault that caused the newly installed part to blow out,” said Bloom.

He said the key question was why there wasn’t a continuous maintenance contract for the scanner and a plan to replace it when it inevitably broke down after being used for its normal lifespan.

“This is a problem at other public hospitals in Gauteng where vital machinery breaks down all the time and patients’ lives are put at risk.

“The first step in addressing a crisis is to admit that there is a crisis. Dr Tim De Maayer is correct to say that ‘things are falling apart’ in an open letter he wrote this week about the crisis at the hospital,” Bloom said.

The hospital has made a submission to the City of Johannesburg to be excluded from the ongoing load shedding schedule to ensure minimal interruption to services.

Feedback is awaited from the City on the request.





African News Agency