Cancer patients forced to climb stairs as lift breaks

Up to seven flights to access treatment at Provincial Hospital

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The last remaining lift which was still in working order at Port Elizabeth’s Provincial Hospital M-Block has given in. This meant cancer patients seeking treatment at the hospital had to climb between three and seven flights of stairs over the last week.

The two lifts at the M-Block have been in a sad state for years, with one 40-year-old lift having been condemned ages ago, and the second one packing up recently.

The Eastern Cape Department of Health confirmed yesterday that the hospital would finally be getting two new lifts this year.

Doctors and nurses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said they felt very sorry for patients seeking treatment on the seventh floor.

Many of them are in the middle of chemotherapy and attending the clinic in the ward.

“You would meet them on the stairs after they climbed a few flights and they already looked close to death. How do they get up seven floors?”

Nurses and social workers were also compelled to carry food and medicine up the stairs to their patients as there was no access for trolleys.

In October, a critically ill man died after he had to be carried up seven flights of stairs on a stretcher.

Health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the replacement of two lifts at the hospital was in the department’s business plan for the current financial year.

He said there were only two lifts for the M-Block at PE Provincial.

The hospital’s other block, P-block, has several lifts, but only a few are operational at a time.
In 2013, the hospital faced a major crisis when patients could not be taken from the surgical theatres back to the wards because all the lifts were broken.

“The 40-year old lift [in M-Block] had been condemned. This means there was only one lift available. The only working lift broke last week.

“The drive mechanism and brake modulator broke,” Kupelo said.

“As from April 1, the service level agreement has been decentralised to the institution for servicing and repairs of the lifts.

“Previously the agreement was between the provincial department of health and the lift companies and this made it impossible to monitor the payment processes.”

Last year, a payment snag led to companies refusing to service lifts because they had not been paid.

A few times since 2013, patients have had to walk to theatre for surgery, and delivery of food and medicine was affected when lifts were out of order for weeks.

Kupelo said the hospital had contacted Kone Elevators on Monday last week.

“They responded promptly. However, it took two days to identify the problem. The parts needed for the lift repairs had to be flown in from Johannesburg and Durban, and arrived on Thursday.

“We are expecting the lift to be in operation as from the end of business [on Friday].”

Yesterday afternoon, the lift was still not working.

As a contingency measure, the hospital was admitting new patients to ground-floor wards.