One week after it emerged that a doctor in the province was forced to beg for donations to help heat babies’ wards, the Limpopo health department now seems unable to replace burnt-out light bulbs at the Helena Franz Hospital in Senwabarwana.
This means for several months, patients have allegedly been forced to brave dark hallways using candles and cellphones when navigating the passages at night.
“We are treated like worthless people in this hospital. Our constant plea to have the bulbs changed always falls on deaf ears. That is why we are pleading with the media to intervene,” said one of the patients during a telephonic interview with The Citizen yesterday.
The Helena Franz hospital is no stranger to controversy.
In 2004, hospital board chairperson Sanny Mannye was fired by then MEC Sello Moloto for allegedly feeding the media with damning information about the state of the hospital. Mannye’s dismissal was followed by the disbandment of the entire board.
Another hospital board chairperson, Dan Mosena, was booted out by then MEC Seaparo Sekoati in 2009, on similar charges. Two months later, a 14-year-old mentally impaired boy Ablonia Sehlako was burnt in scalding water during a bath, while nurses in the ward were allegedly busy on social media.
During the 2008-09 financial year, Helena Franz also had the country’s highest post-natal infant mortality rate.
Yesterday, the department denied the allegations that patients in the hospital had been left in the dark.
Departmental spokesperson Neil Shikwambana confirmed, that some of the wards, especially male wards, had burnt-out bulbs which were not replaced timeously.
“There were just burnt globes in one cubicle of the male ward. Unfortunately, a picture was taken and distributed on social media for dramatisation and exaggeration,” he said.
Shikwambana also confirmed that a sizeable number of pregnant women lost their babies soon after delivery in the hospital maternity wards in recent years.
“During the 2017-18 financial year, the hospital recorded 38 cases of perinatal mortalities. Out of the 38 cases, 36 were stillbirths and two were born at an extreme birth weight.
“Upon reviewing the cases, it has been established that part of the causes included pregnant women visiting clinics very late after conception, which made it difficult for health professionals to save the unborn babies.
“Some deaths were due to over reliance on untested herbal medicines which often endangers the unborn babies,” said Shikwambana.
Last week The Citizen highlighted the plight of a medical doctor at WF Knobel Hopsital in the Capricorn region when he pleaded for donations to buy heaters to warm patients in the wards.
The doctor, who was allegedly threatened with disciplinary action until his plea was highlighted through media attention, wanted R15 000 to buy the heaters. This after the department failed to buy enough blankets for the hospital. The hospital also has scores of broken windows.
Yesterday Shikwambana said: “There is a contractor on site to address all maintenance challenges in the hospital.”