A patient at the Steve Biko Hospital will take on average nearly seven hours to register, see a doctor and collect medicine.
This is an official figure given by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in an oral reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature yesterday.
According to Masuku, the current recorded average waiting times are as follows:
Time to register: 2 hours
Time to see a doctor: 2 hours 46 minutes
Time to collect medicine: 1 hour 58 minutes
This totals 6 hours 44 minutes, which is the average figure, but many patients wait longer than this which is why they come very early in the morning to be in the front of the queue.
Priority 1 patients at casualty will be seen almost immediately but Priority 2 patients (the “walking wounded”) wait on average for 1 hour 36 minutes.
These long waiting times are of great concern. Some patients even have to return the next day.
It is unfortunate that the Hospital CEO Dr Mathabo Mathebula said earlier that patients arriving earlier than 4am in the morning are there for socialising.
Masuku says that more use will be made of scheduled appointment times, patients will be down-referred to other hospitals and clinics, and the CCMDD (Central Chronic Medicine Dispensing and Distribution) programme will be expanded to deliver medicines to chronic patients.
I agree that pressure needs to be taken off the Steve Biko Hospital, but this requires upgraded alternative health facilities, otherwise people will continue to bypass them.
The hospital needs to fill staff vacancies, fix broken equipment and use technology to become more efficient.