Staff shortage caused death

November 7, 2008

Staff shortage caused death

November 03 2008

By Vivian Attwood

That is the claim made by a doctor with close links to Grey’s hospital, who alleged that a critical shortage of medical personnel at the hospital led to her death.

“Because there were complications when the woman was admitted (she apparently had severe hypertension) she should have been carefully monitored in the hours after the caesarean.

“If she had been monitored constantly and attended to the minute it became clear her condition was deteriorating, her death might have been averted,” said the doctor, whose name is being withheld to protect him.

While the cause of the woman’s death will only be revealed once post-mortem results are made available, according to the Grey’s CEO, Dr Kantharuben Naidu, all the regular procedures were followed and the woman was not considered to be high risk after her son was delivered by caesarean section. The hospital would not divulge her identity.

Naidu said the woman had booked her delivery late, at 28 weeks.

“At that time she was mildly hypertensive.

“She was seen at a referral clinic at 34 weeks, and then referred to Grey’s in labour on Saturday October 18.

“A routine CTG (Cardiotocograph) revealed her baby was in distress. Because she had had two caesarean sections before, it was not considered advisable to allow her to attempt natural labour. A caesarean was therefore performed.”

Naidu said the woman’s condition post-caesarean did not indicate that she needed to be in high care or the ICU and she was placed in a recovery ward.

The CEO said all new mothers are routinely monitored at fixed periods, but did not have details of how often the woman was checked on between giving birth around lunchtime on Saturday, and her death at 6:25pm that evening.

“To my knowledge she was fine during the initial observation,” he said.

The Daily News asked of Leon Mbangwa, chief spokesperson for the KwaZulu-Natal department of health, that he ascertain the answers to a series of questions regarding the unnamed woman’s death.

They included:

How many staff members were in attendance in the maternity ward at the time of the woman’s death? At what times during the hours after giving birth was the woman’s condition monitored?

When was the alarm raised that her condition had deteriorated? Was the woman breathing when attempts began to resuscitate her? How many patients were in the ward, and what was the nurse:patient ratio on that day? And, finally, what did the autopsy reveal?

In response, Mbangwa stated: “All the answers to these questions are not for public consumption. We can only provide them to the family”.

Meanwhile, doctors who shared information for the article in the Daily News on the crisis in KZN healthcare due to staff shortages and lack of vital equipment, have reacted angrily to the assertion by Mbangwa, that there is no official moratorium on filling posts.

One doctor said that the department should follow the principles of Batho Pele, and especially that of openness and transparency. It should not deny that a moratorium had been in place since June 13, 2008, he said.

“I find it unacceptable that the spokesman referred to some civil servants as being “lazy”.

“Isn’t morale among dedicated health care professionals in this country low enough?

KZN department of health spokesperson, Chris Maxon, said managers were not communicating correctly

“It is one of the problems in the infrastructure.

“People report shortages too late, and things are allowed to languish until the situation becomes serious.

“It is interesting that all these complaints started coming up only after we told the hospitals to tighten their belts.

“The HOD has been in contact with all the hospitals mentioned in the article to find out when they reported these problems.”

o This article was originally published on page 3 of Daily News on November 03, 2008

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