Phuthuloha Hospital Accused of Neglecting COVID-19 patients

Madineo Mofokeng

Patients at Phuthuloha Hospital in Ficksburg are unsettled about the poor treatment of Covid- 19 patients and the inefficiency of personal protective equipment (PPE) of staff members.

On Tuesday July 28th, 47 year old Makgala Ditsoane was referred to Phuthuloha hospital by a medical doctor because she was presenting with symptoms of the corona virus. “I went to the doctor that morning because I was coughing a lot. I also struggled to breathe and it felt like my lungs were dry,” she said. The doctor then referred Ditsoane to the hospital for access to a ventilator.

Upon arrival she explains that there was no one at the gate so she proceeded to drive in the hospital premises.  Then a staff member appeared out of nowhere and rudely demanded that she wait at the gate until they call her in.  “I was in pain and this person did not even care. Even after I gave him the doctor’s note he still told me I should wait until I am called,” Ditsoane expressed. When she was eventually called in, she had to wait a few more hours until the doctor could attend to her. “I was tired, hungry and the worst part was that I had not yet taken my diabetes medication,” Ditsoane explained. She then explained her situation to the nurses on duty who then provided her with food and medication while she waited.  The doctor attended to her at around 2pm and she waited again in the casualty ward, Ditsoane was only given a bed at around 7pm.

She said that she stayed at the hospital for two nights, and on the third day she pleaded to be discharged because of the poor service and treatment from the staff. “We will only sleep with light sheets and it got so cold at night. Even during the day the doors and windows will be left wide open and nobody attended to us,” Ditsoane explained. Additionally, after 23:30 the nurses would not attend to them anymore. “Getting off that high bed to go to the toilet was such a mission because nobody was there to assist,” expressed Ditsoane. She also noticed how nurses would come in their ward wearing only face masks, medical gloves and plastic aprons. “I was a bit concerned for their safety because they were the only ones coming to check up on us. The doctors never came, they would speak from the door,” she said.

A staff member (asked not to be named) who works in the emergency services (EMS) department at the hospital also confirmed the inefficient use of PPE. “When this pandemic was in its initial stages, we were taken for training on how and which PPE we would use”, she said.  This worker said they only use N95 face masks, googles, face shield, plastic apron and shoe cover. She explains that during training they were told plastic overalls will be provided as well but they don’t have it. “When we asked management about this we were told the overalls are too expensive and the government cannot afford it,” she further explained.  This worker said that they fear for their lives as eight EMS members in their station had tested positive for COVID-19. She also confirmed that all the departments in the hospital are facing the same problem when it comes to PPE. The lack of concern for healthcare workers safety by the Free State department of health evidently poses a threat to the health of these communities.

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