Crowded wards, lousy admin contribute to death and suffering

Chris Bateman


Unpaid debts, poor infection control and slack administration cost at least half a dozen babies their lives and caused unnecessary suffering for thousands of patients at several public sector hospitals and clinics in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in May.

It also emerged that between January and May this year 181 infants died at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in the Eastern Cape, a dysfunctional referral system and dismal ambulance service among the primary contributory factors. The Eastern Cape has the country’s highest poverty levels, lowest public health spending and one public sector doctor to every 5 882 people, the country’s second lowest ratio.

Eastern Cape Health MEC, Phumulo Masualle, promised a basket of reforms at district health level, including the appointment of more doctors, basic equipment, and a skills upgrade to cut down on the high referral rate to Nelson Mandela Hospital. The travel distances for patients in the largely rural province remain an intrinsic problem.
A provincial probe showed that 54 babies died at the hospital in January, 31 in February, 46 in March and 50 in April. ‘This was the equivalent of 45 deaths per 1 000 births, way above the national average, which stands at 36 per 1 000 live births,’ Masualle confirmed.

Author's affiliations

Chris Bateman, HMPG

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maternal and neonatal health, HIV/AIDS, nutrition

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2010;100(7):414- 418.

Article History

Date submitted: 2010-05-28
Date published: 2010-07-02

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