Nurse’s Livingstone despair

Lee-Anne Butler

JUST days after Eastern Cape Health MEC Sicelo Gqobana apologised for the appalling way in which doctors at the PE Hospital Complex have been treated, a Port Elizabeth nurse has described how she spent an entire night with her sickly mother waiting to see a doctor at Livingstone’s casualty unit.

Karen Macomas, who spent nine hours from Saturday night into yesterday morning at the unit waiting for a doctor to give her mother, Dorothy van Vught, 68, medical attention, said she was disgusted by the lack of care for patients.

Macomas, who is employed at a private sector hospital, said when a doctor eventually arrived for night duty he attended to only eight patients, then left, apparently because there were too many patients waiting to be seen.

She said patients had waited for hours and some had been waiting for attention from two nights before, in vain, due to a lack of information from nurses.

“I will never go back there again and I will never take my mother back there,” Macomas said.

“It is so frustrating because there were people there who are really very sick but they are not receiving the help they need.

“These people cannot afford to go anywhere else so all they can do is wait.

“I also did not like the way the nurses speak to the patients.”

Macomas, of Schauderville, said she had returned home after working a 7am to 7pm shift on Saturday to discover her mother was in pain, coughing and lying on the bed.

“I decided to take her to Livingstone and we arrived at about 7.45pm at the casualty department.

“I went to the information desk and was told to go directly to one of the nurses who would assess my mother and take it from there. There were three people ahead of us so we waited.”

Macomas said her mother was eventually assessed at about 9.20pm and was told to return to the information desk to open a file. They also received the number 27 to wait in the queue.

“A short while later my mother was short of breath and I asked a paramedic who was walking past to assist us.

“He put us in a consultation room and the nurse there wanted to give my mother oxygen but I knew this would not help but actually make the situation worse.”

She asked a student nurse for medicine and administered it herself.

“At about 10.45pm I saw what looked like a doctor arrive and I felt happy and relieved but after he saw eight patients he left.

“I assumed that he was on a tea break but after an hour he did not return. At about 12.30am my mother was exhausted so I allowed her to sleep but I overheard the nurses say that he went home because there were simply too many patients.” Macomas asked several of the nurses when the doctor would return but they did not provide any information.

“At about 4am a male nurse arrived and I heard him say that they should close up the casualty unit because there were not enough doctors.

“Some patients said they had been waiting from Thursday and Friday for various things.”

Macomas said they eventually left the hospital at about 5am and she took her mother to see a private doctor yesterday morning.

“It cost R360 but I would rather pay it than go back there. But what makes me sad is that many of the people there cannot afford it. The nurses there did not do much for the patients but they will receive their full salary and so will the doctor.”

Livingstone Hospital chief executive Dr Kobus Kotze said he would investigate, but seriously doubted that the doctor at the time would decide to go home because there were too many patients waiting to be attended.

Such behaviour “is unheard of but once I have the relevant information I will follow up on this”, Kotze said.

Health MEC Gqobana last week promised action on problems at the PE Hospital Complex, comprising Livingstone, Provincial and Dora Nginza.

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