By Sibusiso Moyo
SITTING in her two-roomed house in Nketa 9 suburb in Bulawayo, on a late Saturday morning, Violet Hadebe recalled the frightening experience she went through while taking her brother for treatment at Mpilo Central Hospital.
Hadebe (29) and her two children haplessly watched her brother Mthabisi Maphosa (23) in pain from stab wounds he got from robbers from Makokoba.
They had rushed him to Mpilo Central Hospital hoping he would receive immediate attention at the Casualty Ward to stop the bleeding but they were made to wait longer.
“I was not prepared to lose another brother again, as we are now the only two siblings left in our family. We lost our older brother last year when he was stabbed and died on the spot,” said Hadebe as her tears streamed down her cheeks.
“I began the day on a high note as it was my wedding anniversary. Little did I know that it was going to end in a painful state after we had rushed my young brother to the hospital after he had been stabbed by a knife on the abdomen by robbers who got away with his wallet, $150 and his cellphone at Makokoba suburb,” she said with a sad face.
Hadebe explained that her brother had a deep wound that needed urgent attention.
However, as the family wheeled injured Mthabisi to the front desk at the Casualty Ward, they got a shock of their lives.
“The doctors told us to hurry up as this was an emergency but the gentleman at the administration who appeared to be bored by his job immediately barked at us to join the queue, despite the fact that those in the queue had allowed us to pass given the state of my brother,” said Hadebe noting that the clerk’s heart was as dark as his black suit.
With no choice, Hadebe obediently joined the queue and the doctor could not attend to Mthabisi without the hospital card.
“The gentleman asked for the patient’s details including his date of birth, when our turn came,” said Hadebe.
Sadly, Hadebe did not know the exact date of birth of Mthabisi and the clerk told them that they could not be assisted as they were supposed to follow the procedure.
As Mthabisi’s health deteriorated, the clerk insisted that they should first find the details of the patient and only then will he instruct the doctors to treat him.
Hadebe said a quarrel that lasted for close to an hour ensured.
“After some minutes, one of the nurses came to our rescue. She talked with the administration man, who finally endorsed a date stamp on our hospital card, something that he should have done earlier.”
Hadebe is not alone in this situation. Many people have suffered ill treatment from the hospital’s administration staff. While some cases have been reported, many have been swept under the carpet for fear that the patients with be further ill treated.
“As I sat stressed about the well being of my young brother, something came into my mind that how many people die before they even get attended to by the nurses and doctors,” said Hadebe in a shattered voice.
“For long we have laid the blame on the nurses and doctors, but the administration side, however, leaves a lot to be desired, judging from the way they handled my brother’s case,” added Hadebe.
She said there was need to educate the hospital’s administration staff on how to treat patients as their service was deplorable.
“The hospital needs to do something about arrogant administration people because one day someone will die in the queue. Ngingacabanga ngokuya esibhedlela ngiyesaba ngendlela abasiphatha ngayo (when I think of going to hospital I feel afraid because of the way they treated us),” she said.
While the patient was finally attended, he was left traumatised.
“Abananzeleli ukuthi basebenza lezigulane zifanele ukuphathwa kuhle. (They do not realise that they are dealing with sick people who should be treated carefully),” said Mthabisi.
“It’s better to stay at home and die peacefully than to go to Mpilo Hospital. I do not see myself going to that hospital again in my life. They are so heartless,” he stressed with a voice full of anger.
Maphosa noted that people always blame the doctors and nurses but from his experience the administration staff is to be blamed also.
However, according to one of the senior doctors at the hospital, Dr Marshall Bero, the hospital has changed over the years.
The staffing has improved, there are more doctors coming and subspecialties, and hence patients are being seen by their respective doctors who have special interest in that area.
He said the biggest challenge at Mpilo is that there are very few consultants and it makes management of patients not as good as expected.
Dr Bero said the hospital was owed more than $15 million by people who have not settled their bills.
“Economic challenges can be contributing to the fall of standards at Mpilo Hospital but also the mismanagement of funds,” said Dr Bero.
“Poor incentives for staff and improper protective clothing for staff are also contributing to fall of standards at Mpilo Hospital.”
He said the hospital needs to achieve on proper places of stocking emergency drugs, basic drugs and privacy for patients as some patients are seen on benches where anyone can hear their conversation with the doctors.
Another problem which Dr Bero highlighted was that some doctors if they become specialists, for their various reasons, they leave for Harare soon after training to work there.
In 2013, former Health and Child Welfare Deputy Minister, Dr Douglas Mombeshora took a swipe at health staff especially in Mpilo Central Hospital following complaints by residents that they were ill treating patients.
Hadebe said she will not forget the treatment they got from Mpilo hospital. After arriving at the hospital around past 7 pm, they finally left at 3 am more than seven hours later.