An incident of a psychiatric patient falling from the Addington Hospital building last week was allegedly due to a shortage of beds for psychiatric patients.
According to a health practitioner, who did not want to be named to protect his job at the hospital, the male patient was in a medical ward due to a lack of beds in the psychiatric ward.
“There’s now an influx of psych patients either being managed exclusively or being co-managed in other wards. General wards don’t have enough supervision and security to oversee the mentally ill health-care users. This led to the event of a psych patient jumping off the building,” he said.
The man said there were about 40 psychiatric patients lying in other wards at Addington because of the beds crisis.
Health department spokesperson Noluthando Nkosi said the patient was not a known psychiatric patient, “but was noted to be experiencing an episode of confusion”.
“He’s currently awake and in a stable condition. His family has been notified,” said Nkosi.
Responding to the questions about the shortage of beds, department spokesperson Agiza Hlongwane said: “There’s a heavy burden of disease in the province, so there will be a high demand for resources until health gets adequate funding.”
Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa provincial secretary Mandla Shabangu said there was a shortage of hospital beds in the province.
“We’re aware that there’s a shortage of beds because patients are mixed. In our view, this is the result of renovations and a shortage of staff. The issue of the mixing of patients is not only at Addington but all over the province, due to the shortage of beds for psych patients,” said Shabangu.
National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union provincial secretary Ayanda Zulu said the shortage of hospital beds was not new.
“The shortage of beds was one of the issues we raised on our public services delivery campaign that we started two years back. We’ve been telling Treasury to invest in infrastructure, equipment, and employment for years,” said Zulu.
KwaZulu-Natal violence monitor and researcher Mary de Haas said the KZN department had taken over two big hospitals that were well-functioning and had sufficient infrastructure and equipment. She said now was the time to think of accommodating patients at McCord Eye and St Aidan’s Mission Regional hospitals.
“These two hospitals are big enough to help with the crisis. McCord hospital is unlikely to have many patients that need to be admitted. Where are those beds? What happens to the space that the hospitals have? Why is there over-flooding of patients? The answer to that will bring a solution to the problem,” said De Haas.