Problems at Red Cross, Tygerberg and other Western Cape Hospitals Being Addressed | Western Cape Government


Problems at Red Cross, Tygerberg and other Western Cape Hospitals Being Addressed

1 July 2004
Issued by: Minister of Health, Mr Pierre Uys
Date: 10 June 2004
For release: Immediate
Enquiries: Minister Pierre Uys
Cell: 082 455 5144


Following mass-media reports about problems being experienced at Red Cross Children's Hospital, I wish to reiterate that neither Red Cross Hospital nor any other hospital in the Western Cape is or will be closed for emergencies. It is true that Red Cross and other hospitals are sometimes full to capacity, but no child in a life-threatening situation has been or will be turned away. The situation is monitored constantly across the province, and the hospital managements and clinicians work together to ensure access to essential care when it is needed. At the same time each hospital does everything possible to optimise the utilisation of available staff.

I have full appreciation for the heavy patient load that our doctors and nurses are carrying. The critical shortage of doctors in some areas is exacerbated by the shortage of experienced nurses. Health management, along with clinicians, are grappling with this shortage on a daily basis.

This morning (Friday, 2 July 2004), the Head of Health, Professor Craig Househam, had frank discussions with Red Cross management and clinicians. There was collective agreement that staff at the hospital remain totally committed. However, the shortage of doctors and nurses is impacting heavily on the current staff. We have been unable to recruit appropriate medical staff for the emergency unit at Red Cross because of a severe shortage of medical officers who would normally work in this unit.

In order to alleviate the problems, some hospital staff are already working up to 16 hours overtime and more, while others have shown willingness to put in extra hours over and above their normal programmes, in order to assist in the immediate future. Many medical officers and specialists at Tygerberg and Red Cross are putting in extra time and effort.

A children's hospital may not close its doors. The pressure to provide child-health services is shared across the Metropolitan area. The Children's Unit of Tygerberg Hospital consults daily with Red Cross and other secondary hospitals to ensure that patients are accommodated. A seriously ill child will never be turned away.

With regard to staff shortages, the Health Department has recognized the need for an urgent and sustained recruitment and retention campaign. Advertisements for junior doctors will be appearing in the newspapers shortly. Advertisements will also be placed in overseas journals in the hope of attracting South African and other doctors working abroad. The Department is also close to finalising a range of incentive measures for junior doctors, such as the taking over of student-loan debt. At the same time, the Department is appealing to doctors from other areas in the health services to assist wherever possible.

I would make an appeal, however, for members of the public to be understanding of the tremendous difficulties that our Health Services are experiencing. They should not go to hospitals like Red Cross and Tygerberg for minor ailments that can be more appropriately treated at clinics and community health centres. Attendance at hospitals should be reserved for emergencies or when patients are referred there by a doctor.

The shortage of doctors and nurses is a global challenge, particularly in first-world countries. However, I can assure the public that they will always have access to emergency health services at our hospitals.

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