Desiree van der Walt, Democratic Alliance Member of Parliament who conducted an oversight visit to the cardio-thoracic unit at the Pietersburg/Mankweng Hospital Complex two years ago, plans another oversight visit soon to the R29 million unit, which, more than three years after its official opening, is not operational yet.
“The very expensive equipment all stood wrapped in plastic,” she said after her first visit.
The unit cost at least R29 million to establish and was opened in April 2014 by then Health and Social Development MEC, Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba.
Polokwane Observer reported last year that, according to Spokesperson for the Department of Health, Derick Kganyago, that MEC Phophi Ramathuba, had learnt with “serious concern” that the state-of-the-art cardio-thoracic unit at the Pietersburg Hospital was non-functional after the department had also spent over R9 million to equip the facility.
According to Kagnyago the MEC was “very angry” when finding the unit not operational and its staff without work. The unit is meant to treat local patients suffering from heart conditions who had to be treated in Gauteng before the official opening, and to date cannot be assisted in the province. The unit was to have started on 5 May 2014 and the full spectrum of diagnostics was supposed to be done there, including open-heart surgery and angiograms. The unit includes a specialised post-operative intensive care unit.
Polokwane Observer has since established that the unit is not yet functional.
Kganyago last year said patients still had to be referred to other hospitals for treatment. He said money would be asked from treasury to equip the unit to be a catheterisation laboratory (cath lab) “as soon as possible.” A cath lab is an examination room in a hospital or clinic with diagnostic imaging equipment used to visualise the arteries of the heart and the chambers of the heart and treat any stenosis or abnormality found. When more money was available the unit, “which was not fully installed, would be finalised to operate fully.”
Ramathuba allegedly met with the hospital management and with her team in the department and assured that they would work tirelessly in making sure the equipment is commissioned and utilisation starts.
According to Van der Walt the unit at the time of her oversight visit was not functional as a result of problems with the specialised air-conditioning system needed in the unit and also electricity supply which was not sufficient for the operating of the equipment in the unit. Infection control would be severely compromised if the air conditioning was not according to specifications in the unit and could lead to patients dying.
“It is a world class unit and when operational could save many lives in the province that need immediate assistance with cardiac problems,” she said. “That is why we will pay a visit to the hospital again soon.”
Thabiso Teffo, Spokesperson of the Department of Health admitted that the department had a challenge of the unit not working. He said a contractor was appointed by the department, but could not do the work. “The department is in the process now of appointing a new contractor to get the unit up and running soon.”
Story: NELIE ERASMUS