This morning I witnessed shouts and jostling as patients argued with security about who was first to enter the pharmacy at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital (CMJH). Some people had arrived as early as 2 am and accused others of queue jumping when the pharmacy doors were opened at 7 am.
I was visiting the hospital in the early morning with my colleague Alan Fuchs MPL as part of the DA campaign to cut inhumane waiting times at Gauteng state hospitals.
There were about a hundred people at 6 am at the registration section waiting to pay and get their medicine scripts stamped, and we spoke with people who had arrived at the pharmacy at 2 am to be first in the queue there.
Those who arrive very early place a marker or a sign on the seats even though a hospital notice forbids this practice.
People we spoke to said they arrived very early otherwise they will spend most of the day in the hospital.
There were about a hundred people queuing when the pharmacy opened at 7 am, and there was a scuffle at the door as people argued as to who was first. Numbers are issued but disputes arise as some people bypass the registration and go straight to the pharmacy.
Patients told us that they used to get a three month supply of chronic medicines, but this was cut to two months and now it is monthly. This is because of a medicine supply shortage from national contracts which has been an ongoing problem.
Queues could easily be cut by reverting to a three month supply and also using distribution points closer to where people live, as is done most successfully in the Western Cape. Patients we spoke to came from far away including Krugersdorp, Alexandra, Honeydew and Benoni.
The patient experience at CMJH is not pleasant as there are not enough chairs and some elderly patients have to stand. The numbering system can be improved and there should be queue assistants to ensure everything runs smoothly.
It is distressing that this major hospital has not done more to ensure that desperate patients don’t have to arrive extremely early to avoid long queues.
I will continue to pressure the Gauteng Health Department to take effective measures to cut long waiting times at hospitals and clinics.