Port Elizabeth hospitals in spotlight

With the most critical state hospitals in the Bay falling under the Port Elizabeth Hospital Complex, Brian Hayward asked acting chief executive, Solly Pretorius, some tough questions.

Brian Hayward: Is the complex functioning to your liking?
Solly Pretorius: We try our best to have everything working as well as possible. I was at the accident and emergency (A&E) at Livingstone Hospital recently and it was coping well.

BH: What can be done to improve the complex – and where?
SP: We have started with plans to upgrade the haemotology department and have allocated R20-million in our (2011/12) budget for that. We have also finished a new oncology treatment centre at Livingstone Hospital (which will replace the old unit at PE Provincial). We will use that space at Provincial for doctors’ residences. We are making the complex more functional.

BH: Is the current budget (R1.2-billion for 2010/11) enough?
SP: The funding is really not adequate. We need quite a bit more. This would go to upgrading old equipment and increasing our staff component, and repairing old buildings. Our budget for rectifying buildings is far below the norm.

BH: What part of the complex are you most proud of?
SP: Our A&E centre (completed for last year’s Fifa World Cup) is really top notch. I wish we could get the security we have there for the rest of our buildings. Even our new oncology treatment centre is far better than the old one, with modern and efficient technology.

BH: What must be done to address the overspill from clinics, leading to a 40% overload of patients at the PEHC?
SP: The MEC (Sicelo Gqobana) has launched a new strategy to inform the public about primary health care (clinics). Health workers will visit communities and help with minor treatments there (before those patients burden the hospitals unnecessarily).

BH: What needs to change with the current health care model?
SP: The public should be better informed about how state health care works. Also, health care should be decentralised (from Bhisho).

BH: Should the PEHC be delegated more authority to handle its own affairs?
SP: Definitely. At the moment for any equipment we purchase over R100000, we must first get permission from Bhisho, and that delays service delivery.

BH: What is the complex’s plan of action for the year ahead?
SP: Our major focus is on upgrading the haemotology wing, to integrate the Elizabeth Donkin psychiatric hospital to Dora Nginza and to set up a “step-down” wing. This wing will provide beds for patients who are about to be discharged, and free up beds for critical patients. We are also about to upgrade our ventilation systems, to prevent the spread of air-bourne illnesses like tuberculosis.

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