Vacant posts crippling Bay’s state hospitals

Brian Hayward

UNDER PRESSURE... A nurse at a clinic in Missionvale, Port Elizabeth, struggles to deal with the long queue of patients needing assistance. Picture: EUGENE COETZEEMORE than a third of the critical and most specialised positions at Nelson Mandela Bay’s four state hospitals are vacant – and no one seems to want the jobs.

The city’s state hospitals are battling with a 30% shortage of highly-trained specialists.

Within the Port Elizabeth Hospital complex, 21 of the 63 specialist posts are vacant, despite repeated adverts to fill them.

Of these posts, the most critical is the recently-vacated post of cardio-thoracic head of department. The department is also short three principal specialists.

The urology, orthopedics and ENT departments also have their two top specialist positions open.

PEHC clinical governance head Aydin Vehbi said experts from private hospitals in the city and state hospitals in East London were called in to assist when needed.

“They will come and cover our guys with the really complicated stuff, but otherwise we are coping at the moment,” Vehbi said.

Despite the absence of a cardio-thoracic head, there were full-time surgeons.

“The head of department left about four months ago and we head-hunted a replacement from Mpumalanga. Unfortunately, that person declined the position at the eleventh hour,” said Vehbi.

“We then opted to advertise the post. This was done (earlier this month). We also have surgeons who do sessions with us.”

One senior staff member within the complex, who asked not to be named, said: “Most doctors and specialists are lured over to the private sector, where they can earn up to double what they get in the government sector. Plus their working conditions are much cushier.”

At Uitenhage Provincial Hospital, chief executive officer Francois Zietsman said the hospital had only been allowed to appoint full time specialists from last year “so we are in a recruiting process. So far we have hired four out of 16 – mostly specialist physicians – who are urgently needed.”

A level 1 hospital, Uitenhage Provincial focuses mainly on maternity procedures and other entry-level operations, while the PEHC is level 3, offering intricate procedures such as trauma and neuro-surgery.

Provincial Health Department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said it was “impossible to have every skill available in every hospital. We have a fully functional cardiac and cardio-thoracic department (in the Bay),” he said.

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