Durban - KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo has quashed rumours that certain sections of the RK Khan Hospital will be closed down, after making an unannounced visit on Tuesday.
The hospital board made a premature announcement saying they were to cut down on certain services because of budgetary constraints after the department was "cutting back the budget by R17 million".
The MEC's office was surprised since Dhlomo is yet to announce the allocation of the R21 billion budget given to the department.
Dhlomo met with key players of the hospital to iron out the confusion. He said he will give the board members the benefit of the doubt on this occasion but will meet the CEOs of provincial hospitals to clarify the roles of hospital boards.
"After listening to the discussions with the management team, I have been appraised on the reasons why there was confusion on the state of finances of the hospital. Hospital boards are there to advise and assist the MEC. They do not make policy pronouncements," he said.
Dhlomo also took the opportunity to walk around the hospital to listen to patients' concerns.
"On my visit to the pharmacy I was disturbed to see large numbers of people awaiting treatment whilst staff are on lunch. This, as I stated to the pharmacy manager, is unacceptable."
The MEC could not understand why almost two thirds of the staff complement were on lunch at once while "leaving poor people to spend the whole day in a hospital".
Dhlomo said he has instructed the district manager to do regular hospital visits so that they are abreast of patient complaints and attend to systemic problems as quickly as possible.
He believes that effective service delivery is possible and does not necessarily only include increasing the number of staff.
He gave the example of the Prince Mshiyeni Hospital that can now attend to 500 more people than in the past by readjusting procedures and attitudes of the current staff complement.
"In most hospitals, the blockages are where patients collect their cards and where they receive treatment. We have addressed such a blockage at one institution without adding a body. We just need to change operating systems in manner that when people have come from different clinics they get their medication and leave".
While Dhlomo appreciates that hospitals like RK Khan service millions of people, he still believes that it is not necessary for people to spend an entire day receiving medical help.
He said more information could be provided by medical staff in the event of unusual delays.
"People are more understanding when they have access to information". For example, should there be staff shortages on that day or computer failures, then the public should be told," he said.
Although the MEC acknowledged the issues raised by the public, he however feels there are some areas were people need to start helping themselves.
Once such instance in KwaZulu-Natal is around the number of women who die while giving birth.
Women are urged to attend to basic pregnancy requirements such as ant-natal clinics to stop this from happening.