Our Health System in 2010

10 Sep

This is about Anele Masiza, an oke I went to primary school with. We were in the same class from the then Sub A (Grade 1) in 1992 to Standard 5 (Grade 7) in 1998 at Soyisile Primary School in Site-B, Khayelitsha, Cape Town. We then went to separate high schools and saw each other much less. We have become good friends again from 2007 and have gotten quite close.

Anele is a 25-year-old old-fashioned, principled police officer who has graduated from photography and graphic design school. He lives three streets away from my home. He is a brilliant soccer player, watches too much cricket to not be deemed a fan and has a healthy nibble at rugby. I am a law student acting as an advocate for the poor and defenceless. I also have a passion for photography and drawing portraits. I have played cricket at a very high level and for Western Province under 15 and under 17. And because I was born and bred in Khayelitsha, I cannot claim to have escaped the township bug that gets everyone playing soccer. Therefore, I am comfortable at tapping to at least 100 and playing socially. I know more about rugby than an average supporter does. Therefore, one can clearly see the mutual history and interests that Anele and I share.

On Saturday the 4th of September 2010, Anele and some of his friends were playing cards at the neighbour’s house in Site-B, Khayelitsha. Around mid-night, Anele had had enough with the cards and got up to retire to his bed next door. The other people he played with also got up and they all went their separate ways for a late nap. As Anele was opening a gate at his house, he heard screams and a lot of noise from the street. He turned around to look. He saw Thobelani, one of the guys he was playing cards with, falling backwards while a stranger rushed to put his knee on Thobelani’s chest and stab him repeatedly on his upper body and chest while he was on his back after falling.

With adrenalin pumping, Anele turned around and picked up a brick and threw it at the stranger who was on top on his neighbour, stabbing him repeatedly. The brick hit the attacker on the buttocks. The attacker then got up and came for Anele. A scuffle broke out between the two. And when the attcker realised that Anele was stronger and that the friends he played cards with him were rushing back, he ran away while being pursued by the other chaps Anele was playing cards with, leaving Thobelani for dead. Anele and the other people quickly organised transport for the stabbed neighbour and he was taken to the Site-B Day Hospital. This was around 00:30 on Sunday morning.

Soon after when all had settled and everyone had retired, Anele realised he had also been stabbed on the left shoulder blade and was bleeding profusely beneath his concealing jacket. Anele decided to follow his neighbour to the Site-B Day Hospital, which is about 1.2 km from his house. After Anele had walked about 800 meters and was just outside the Khayelitsha Police Station, he felt weak. He sat down by the Telkom public phones to have a rest. A moment later, without the mental presence that he could go into the police station, which was barely 10 meters away and ask for help, he made one last bid for the hospital and almost got there. Twenty meters away and just across the road, he collapsed and could no longer fathom the necessary strength to get up and finish the long walk to professional assistance. He faintly recalls being spotted by the security guards who were guarding the hospital entrance and being carried by them into the hospital.

Now, please be reminded that there was a public service strike that began towards the end August and was on its third week, and the hospital had only a handful of health workers on duty. Anele lay in the benches of the hospital from around 1:30am to around 1:30pm with nurses and doctors waltzing up and down past him.

Towards the evening, Thobelani; the neighbour would had been repeatedly and savagely stabbed the night before spotted him. It turns out that Thobelani has not had much luck with the nurses himself and was put on a wheelchair by a another patient, who had noticed that out of Thobelani’s numerous chest and head wounds from the knife, his most serious one was in his lower back from the fall when he was being attacked. It was so severe that Thobelani and lost use of his legs. Now with dried blood all over his chest and head, it was evident that his wounds were neither deep nor life threatening, because had they been, surely he would have died as a result of lack of care from the hospital.

For Anele to get help, Thobelani then wheeled himself around the hospital, screaming and swearing at all the health workers he came across. Securities were called to shut him up. He was not phased and unrelenting. Around 3pm, health workers finally gave in went to attend to Anele, who was still lying on the bench 15 hours after he arrived at the hospital. They saw that he had lost of a lot of blood and has developed complications, one of which was difficulty breathing while swung in and out of consciousness. Now they started rushing, stitched him up and bandaged on the spot and sent him to collect his medication in order for him to go home. On his way to get medicine dispensing unit, he collapsed once again, this time on the hospital corridors.

It was a new shift. Anele was picked up and examined by a new doctor who put him on a wheelchair and sent him for an x-ray to check the damage on the shoulder. The x-ray came back to the doctor, who rejected it was bad quality and sent Anele again for another one and from a different angle of the shoulder. It was discovered that the wound was so deep and caused so much trauma that it caused Anele to bleed into his thoracic cavity, affecting his lungs and other vital organs. The doctor immediately arranged for Anele to be transferred to G.F. Jooste Hospital in Manenberg/Nyanga, where we would again join Thobelani. That reunion was very brief as Anele was transferred again, this time to Lentegeur Hospital in Mitchell’s Plain where the wound was re-examined and the blood drained from his thoracic cavity. Anele spend two more days at the Lentegeur Hospital, where he finally got the attention deserved. At Lentegeur, he was drained all the blood in this thoracic cavity through a pipe that went through his ribs. The wound in his left shoulder also received due attention. Anele spend two days at the Lentegeur Hospital and was deemed strong on Tuesday afternoon and was then discharged. He is now recovering well at home. Thobelani was also discharged on Tuesday from G.F. Jooste and came home to recover well. But he currently needs a walking stick to walk about, which should be retired in a fortnight or so.

As you can see, these two young men did not survive due to the intervention of the Site-B Day Hospital staff. If they would have died without quick medical intervention, then they surely would have died. Thank goodness Thobelani used his arms to great effect to protect himself against the worst of the stabbings from the attacker. Even though he was still severely injured, these were mostly superficial words with none over 5mm over the essential parts. The deepest was over 4cm deep at the back, scraping this lower spine.

We cannot blame the situation on the now “suspended” strike. Things have always been like this at Site-B Day Hospital. As far back as when I was just months old I attended Site-B Day Hospital as an asthmatic baby. My asthma grew with me to primary school, then high school and now to adulthood. I remember when I was around eight or nine; I would discover that I could not breathe in the middle of the night. My mother would rush me to the Site-B Day Hospital around three or four in the morning where I would wait to get attention for no less than 6 hours at the bare minimum. I went to that so called hospital over a hundred times for my asthma, over two dozen times to submit or check up on people, two times for a toothache and once for an HIV test, so there is nothing I do not know about how people are treated there. Even though a strike might be used as a defence for what happened to Anele and Thobelani, things have always been like that at Site-B Day Hospital.

How can a health facility be so bad? Am the only one who cares about this? If not, then what is the government doing about it. I can honestly say that I was born, grew and still live in Khayelitsha, one of the most violent places in the globe. By virtue of that, I know many people (literarily hundreds) who have attended that hospital. Not one, not even one of those people will tell you that they got better from being attended to by the staff, but that they just got better from waiting around for help. By the time the help arrived, they could have dies and have been cold for hours or gone home as they felt so much better. Anyone who was so sick or so injured that he or she would have died without the swift help of the staff did. The only reason people go there for help is that they do not want to be accused of not having attempted to do something. Moreover, the hospital system does not allow people who live in a certain area to attend to a health facility elsewhere. Not to say those facilities are much better. But their nothing like Site-B Day Hospital.

Zama, my son was born there around 10pm on 31 December 2008. I only got there 3 hours after the birth as I heard late. However, what his mother, my girlfriend at the time told me made me want to grab one of them by the throat and bash them against the wall and then kick them to a pulp. Thandile told me that she was left unattended on the bed and was only attended to an hour after the baby’s head has breached her body while the rest of the body was still inside her. And when the nurses arrived from watching the fire-cracker displays for the imminent new celebrations, they virtually ignored her for a longer time until the baby popped voluntarily. They only came to cut the umbilical chord. At the time, I was just thankful that the baby was born healthy and with no complications. I swear I would have done something terrible that countdown night if anything had gone wrong. I would have been in jail for a very long time now.

This is life in our country if you are poor. This hospital needs nothing less than a thorough perusal from the Department of Health. Please send to this to anyone you can bring it to the attention of the minister concerned. We should be ashamed as a country.

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