The Speaker
Monday, 24 June 2024 – 08:14

A look inside South Africa’s hospitals – overcrowding, shortages and funding troubles

NOTE: This is an opinion article – any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Speaker or any members of its team.

Cover Photo: A hospital in South Africa | Credit: amanderson2 (CC BY 2.0)

The NHS in the UK is often in the news for funding troubles, but these struggles cannot be compared to those taking place in South Africa.

A report published by the Office of Health Standards Compliance last year showed only five of the 696 hospitals and clinics it inspected in South Africa (2016-17) complied with the Department of Health’s norms and standards to achieve an 80% “pass mark.” For the past few years, South African hospitals have been criticised for overcrowding, lack of additional human resources, equipment shortages and negligence which often compromises care.

With allegations of negligence and rudeness from staff increasing, some citizens of South Africa have turned to social media to voice their frustrations.

A hidden camera filming conducted last year by Health-e revealed the extent of the severity of South Africa’s over-crowding issue; babies lying only centimetres apart instead of the recommended half a meter, with some babies doubled up in receiving trays.

Speaking to Abbianca Makoni for The Speaker, Isaac Gundani, 31, believes the maternity ward is a “sacred place” but was left “heartbroken” when his wife had to deliver their stillborn of eight months in a public hospital during the early hours of 1am without the care of nurses or doctors.   

The morning after Ms. Neillie Tarugarira, 30, (Gundani’s wife) was told she lost her baby and had to be induced while all they could hear was the sirens of baby’s crying – which worsened their pain.

“When a woman knows she is going to give birth to a lifeless baby, this pain can be worsened by hearing other women in the maternity wards giving birth.  

“As my wife was now lying on the hospital bed waiting for the doctors to start the process of inducing the baby, we could hear the cries of newly born babies from other rooms in the maternity wards,” said Gundani.

Mr. Gundani, a newly published author said his wife delivered their baby without assistance of medical staff and they rushed in after they heard his wife’s screams and walked in to find the lifeless baby, who had taken her mother’s looks beside them.

“I felt led down by nature and heartbroken because I had carried a baby for close to nine months only to lose her at eight months. I felt robbed of something precious,” Ms. Tarugarira said.

Stillbirths within the Black population group in South Africa is not uncommon.

Data from the second annual report by Statistics South Africa shows that in 2014 stillbirths accounted for the majority of all perinatal deaths at 66% and continued to show similar levels until 2015 with minimal fluctuation, before dropping to 11,961 in 2016.

The most recent report shows Black Africans comprised the majority of deaths among stillbirths (80, 2%) with the White community at 1.5% and the Asian population group at 0.7%.

Discussions on prevention and interventions are ongoing in South Africa and whilst ideas continue to be drawn out by citizens and organisations – funding continues to be a major issue in many regions of South Africa.

In 2009, the government proposed a National Insurance plan that would cover all citizens but the policy blueprint has taken years to move forward to the planning stage and may take a full decade to officially run leaving citizens frustrated.

Gundani described the hospitals they stayed in as “poor, undesirable and of great concern” and five years since their second stillborn he believes more work still needs to be done in patient care.

He added that during his wife’s pregnancy there was inconsistency in the medical information they received: “Sometime back, during my wife’s pregnancy, the doctors had told us that Celine (the first-born) had Downs syndrome and that she would be born with abnormalities.

“We became emotionally depressed when we heard this however this didn’t affect our love for Celine in any way.”

But during his wife’s 8th month the couple were informed their baby was no longer with abnormalities. During this time the happily married couple were confused with the inconsistency but  “didn’t care” as they just wanted to be parents.

Despite doctors insisting the baby had no abnormalities when the couple were given the news of their baby’s death, they were told it was due to abnormalities which left them in pain and confused. 

Several years later and after the birth of their third child, who was born healthy and alive, they’ve looked back on the ‘misshapes’ that occurred during their “traumatic” experiences and are now vocal on what they believe should have been done.

“I think South African public hospitals should train their nurses and all healthcare workers to be friendlier with patients. We felt the death of our babies could have been conveyed with compassion.

“I realised that at the hospital at night there is very little supervision so healthcare workers act as they please.

“So night-time supervision should be implemented at public hospitals because my wife pushed the baby by herself with no nurse’s present,” said Mr. Gundani.

The couple believe there should be more aftercare for those who’ve suffered stillbirths or miscarriages – where doctors or nurses with experience in that area give therapy or some sort of counseling to help patients focus on the next steps.

Update: Couple has a baby girl, Kyla who will be four this year and now run a Facebook page to reach out to people who may find themselves going through a similar experience offering advice.

Gundani has also written a book, called ‘My wife’s keeper’ detailing his personal journey and the mental and emotional toll it had on their marriage.

Abbianca Makoni is a guest writer for The Speaker. Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of any other member of The Speaker’s team. Any links are for informational purposes only and are not endorsements. The content of external sites is not the responsibility of The Speaker, in accordance with our Disclaimer and policies.

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