Hospersa slams EC Health Dept for safety failures after patient dies

16:44 (GMT+2) Mon, 06 Mar 2017

A health sector trade union has blasted the Eastern Cape Health Department for failing to implement of safety measures after a patient died in the PE's Livingstone Hospital.

Hospersa said in a lengthy statement on Monday that it was now calling on the Chief Inspector of the Department of Labour to address what is said were the dismal findings in their audits of public health facilities where the national average compliance rate is reported to stand at a mere 26%..

Hospersa was commenting after a psychiatric patients reportedly committed suicide at Livingstone Hospital on Sunday.

The union's Fazeela Fayers, said the patient's suicide happened only hours after Hospersa and sister unions at the institution demonstrated to convey their fears around the safety of patients and staff.

“It is totally unacceptable that the Department [of Health] can think to care for psychiatric patients in general wards,” said Fayers.

“Psychiatric patients require specialised care with special focus on protecting their safety and those who care for them. This is made even worse when they are kept in general wards, because then other patients’ safety is also being compromised,” she said.

According to reports from the Hospersa Eastern Cape leadership team this is not the first event indicating the safety failures at Livingstone Hospital. Just last week on 1 March 2017 a nurse was physically attacked by a psychiatric patient.

“She had to be rescued by fellow staff members and was admitted to sick bay. In 2015 a psychiatric patient set himself alight in the ward and ultimately burn to death. Patients have also jumped to their death from the fifth floor of the hospital,” Fayers said.

“The number of incidents in similar scenarios of this nature escalated to a number of twenty. These patients pose a danger to themselves, fellow patients and employees, especially in light of the nurses having received absolutely no psychiatric training.”

Fayers said psychiatric patients are mostly brought to Livingstone by South African Police Services (SAPS) members, and then left with nurses for treatment until they can be placed at institutions with psychiatric facilities.

“Hospersa has had several engagements with hospital management but, while certain undertakings were made, the results have been absent while the situation escalates,” she said.

This led Hospersa and sister unions staging a sit-in on Wednesday (1 March 2017), handing over a memorandum to management demanding that the Superintendent General of Eastern Cape Health visits Livingstone Hospital so that urgent solutions can be found. This was followed by a picket on Friday (3 March 2017) in order to gain public support. The media was in attendance and interviewed the combined spokesperson of the three unions organising at the hospital.

“Hospersa cannot stand for this kind of total disregard for health and safety legislation,” said Fayers.