The Hillbow Clinic is inundated with Zimbabwean women who want to give birth in South Africa, staff told newly appointed Deputy Health Minister Joe Paahla and Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu yesterday.
The clinic’s Dr Sibongile Ntuli said many of the women arrived fully dilated and ready to give birth. “When they are ready to deliver, we cannot send them away to other health facilities, so they get stuck here and we deliver their babies,” said Ntuli, who added that 90 percent of the clinic’s pregnant women were non-South Africans.
Another staff member described how buses from Zimbabwe would arrive and offload the women outside the clinic gates.
Staff at the Hillbrow clinic say they referred some of the cases to Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital but claim some women were turned away and told to return to Hillbrow.
However, a senior staff member at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital denied that the hospital was turning patients away.
“We usually deal with high risk cases, but if a highly pregnant woman enters our premises we do all the necessary checks on them to see how urgent their situation is,” said Dr Mamorena Mofokeng, Director for Clinical Services.
“If we find that it is not urgent then we refer them to Hillbrow clinic for further assistance, but if we find that the patient is ready to give birth then we help them immediately, we do not turn anyone away.”
Women come just hours before delivery
Buses from Zimbabwe would arrive and offload the women outside the clinic gates
“It is important for us to treat them, but because they come late we have not captured them in our system and we don’t have their history in our files,” she told Health-e News.
Dr Mofokeng has meanwhile admitted to overcrowding and lack of space at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, especially at their maternity ward and that some patients who wanted elective caesarean section had to wait for close to 72 hours before being operated as emergency cases had to be attended to first.
Mahlangu and Paahla made unannounced visits to some health facilities in the Johannesburg city centre.
Patients raised concern about the long waiting times and staff shortages that affect the operation of the facilities. “I have been waiting here since 6:30am it is now 10am and I still have not been helped. I am here for vaccination for my baby”, said a young mother.
“The nurses come to work on time and they open on time but it seems like they start working after 8am, while we as patients sit here waiting. We can’t even go to work,” said Melvia Ditabe another patient.
Paahla said that he is aware of the high demand of South Africa’s healthcare system, particularly in Gauteng and his department was working on ways to address the challenges.
“Our services are helping a lot of people and the waiting times are too long, there is a demand of equipment, human resources and they are also working under pressure. So there is a lot to be improved,” said Paahla.