The closure of the emergency unit at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital has placed a severe burden on Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital, says Professor Martin Smith, clinical head of surgery at Chris Hani Baragwanath.
“We have trauma doctors from Charlotte Maxeke working with us, but it’s not about the human resources. It’s about infrastructure and facilities like operating theatres and ICU beds.
“I’m extremely concerned about what will happen in the second half of December which is the busiest time for emergencies and trauma,” said Smith.
Charlotte Maxeke hospital was forced to close on 16 April after a fire. The hospital opened partially in June “offering services unique to Charlotte Maxeke hospital”, said Kwara Kekana, spokesperson for the Gauteng Health MEC. These services include medical and radiation oncology, renal care, high-risk maternity and an intensive care unit for Covid patients, she said.
Kekana said the hospital’s emergency unit is still under construction.
According to Smith, in addition to Chris Hani Baragwanath’s existing patient-load, the hospital is also accommodating patients in need of emergency care being referred from Edenvale hospital, Bertha Gxowa hospital and South Rand hospital.
The closure of Charlotte Maxeke hospital has resulted in a surgical backlog. The Gauteng Department of Health said 1,048 patients were awaiting paediatric orthopaedic surgery, 2,572 people were waiting for cataract surgery and 804 people for surgery in obstetrics and gynaecology.
In a bid to deal with the backlogs, Kekana said, various public hospitals had held a “cataract campaign” during October when over 700 cataract surgeries had been performed.
But as Covid cases continue to rise sharply in Gauteng, more surgeries are being postponed, said Smith. “Stopping essential surgery is going to be a huge problem. This time of year is usually quiet for elective surgery. We were going to use this time now to try and catch up some of the backlogs but I’m not sure we will be able to do that,” he said.
Smith said this situation compromised the quality of care patients are receiving and lengthened waiting periods for treatment.
In an open letter addressed to President Cyril Ramaphosa, the head of internal medicine at Charlotte Maxeke hospital, Professor Adam Mahomed, said that flooding apparently caused by a pipe burst at the hospital on 28 and 30 November had resulted in the closure of seven wards (about 200 beds) and two intensive care units with 30 beds.
“Patients in the Medical Oncology ward have once again been moved to different sections of the hospital, and the Division of Cardiology is unable to perform lifesaving interventions such a coronary angiography and pacemaker insertion as their equipment is damaged. These floods are not the first to occur in our hospital,” he said.
Rebuilding Charlotte Maxeke hospital
The hospital’s reconstruction is to be completed by May 2024, according to the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development.
Spokesperson Bongiwe Gambu said R8 million had been spent on the Radiation Oncology Unit and the total reconstruction cost would be over R60 million.
However, staff say they are in the dark about progress on the hospital’s reconstruction.
Professor Mahomed in his letter called on Ramaphosa to set up a task team to urgently intervene in the crisis at the hospital with clear deadlines. “We need a firm plan and a dedicated budget to overcome this crisis,” he said.