Editorial | Healthcare: time for public protest

Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital lift
Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital lift
Image: Supplied

The last remaining elevator in Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital’s M-Block has stood broken for the past eight days while another has been condemned for close to a decade.

The one which was still operating has been breaking down with alarming regularity, forcing cancer patients to climb seven flights of stairs to get to their doctor and receive chemotherapy.

Child cancer sufferers have also had to struggle up three flights, while family members have been seen carting linen and food up and down the darkened staircase.

For years the Eastern Cape health department has succeeded in diminishing our expectations of what a functioning health system looks like at the metro’s state hospitals.

It is one thing after another. If the elevator breaks, patients are told to take the stairs.

When pillows and linen disappear, patients are told to bring their own.

Surgeries are performed with patients wearing torn and threadbare surgical gowns.

When it takes months to fix equipment, they are told to be grateful they are getting any help at all.
And then there are the really staggering incidents for which there is little or no comeback and little in the way of a full explanation.

A patient mysteriously falling to his death or another falling from his bed – or maggots developing in a wound.

Nobody is held accountable, but patients are forever reminded of how dependent they are on these failing public healthcare facilities.

The time has come to say enough is enough.

The way state healthcare is run in the metro has morphed into a system that routinely and gravely violates the human rights of ill people. And no politician – from any party – is actively working to fix this.

It is time for organisations with a vested interest, churches and the public at large to take a stand.

If you can’t fix an essential elevator in a few hours, you shouldn’t be running a public healthcare system.

We collectively are the only ones to change the fate of a health structure which is run using our tax money but which is failing to meet the basic standards which anyone being treated by a state medical facility should reasonably expect.