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MBABANE – Is the country’s national health referral agency becoming a hospital of death? While families send their sick relatives there with the hope that they would get medical help, the Mbabane Governmental Hospital is slowly becoming a place where there is less hope that lives of patients would be saved.

One of the reasons, this publication has gathered, is failure by government to ensure that the various departments have the required equipment and machines to ensure that patients get the best treatment.
It has been discovered that in most departments several machines are lying idle due to the fact that they have not been fixed for months after they developed faults.
According to impeccable sources, the most affected department currently is the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which logically is supposed to have special wards that provide treatment and monitoring for people who are gravely ill.


The sources alleged that the ICU had about 12 beds which are expected to have the required machines for the patients.
However, the sources alleged, less than five of the beds accommodate patients and this is because of machines that developed faults and have not been fixed for months.
In the past three weeks, a machine meant to provide ventilation inside the ICU allegedly developed faults and stopped functioning.

The sources said the situation was so serious such that on some days, doctors were forced to open the door just so that some fresh air could filter inside.
“This is very dangerous to the patients because it puts their lives at risk. The ICU door has to be kept closed at all times, especially because it is situated right next to some of the wards where patients with diseases like TB are accommodated,” one of the sources explained.

The provision of ventilation inside an ICU is vital due to the fact that deviations from the normal body temperature can be dangerous for patients. A ventilator is a machine that helps with breathing and uses a tube that is placed in the mouth, nose, or through a small cut in the throat of a patient.
According to medical experts, when a patient’s temperature rises too high above normal, for example, he or she may be at risk of seizures, brain damage and other complications.  

Likewise, a patient whose temperature falls too far below normal may be at risk of various other issues, including heart problems and hypoxia.
 Other experts stated that lower than normal body temperatures during and after surgery are linked to an increased risk of surgical complications, including infection of the surgical site.  
Because patients in the ICU are already critically ill, the risk of complications for them is often higher than for patients in other units.  

In addition, complications may be more severe when they occur because the patient is already in a weakened state.
It has also been alleged that the ICU and other departments had other machines that had not been fixed for some time, which include monitors.
With most of the beds having machines that are not functioning, the ICU faces a challenge during busy days as it can only attend to only a few patients which leads to some of them spending many hours before they could be admitted to the ICU.
Some of them, it has been alleged, end up dying while waiting for their chance to be accommodated in the few beds.

“We are worried about the death rate here. With the ICU being compromised, many patients’ lives are at stake. Government should do something,” a hospital employee said.
The reason why the machines have been lying idle is that the hospital has allegedly struggled to pay a company responsible for fixing them.

A medical staff member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, alleged that they had on countless occasions raised the issue of the unfixed machines and that the response they received was that there was no money.
“The machines have been breaking down one after another and no tender has been issued to get a company to fix them. It was a progressive breakdown after the company which fixed them ended its contract,” said the staff member.
Elaborating, she mentioned that the degrading services had reached a point where medical staff no longer took pride in their job due to the pain of watching patients die right before their eyes.


Another issue of concern is that most medical staff members, including expatriates, have not had their contracts renewed while others have left which is said to be also compromising the operations of the department. A proper set-up of an ICU is one that ensures that the seriously ill patients are closely monitored and special equipment is available to aid in patient monitoring, stabilising and recovery.

When reached for comment, Director of Health Services Dr Vusi Magagula acknowledged that they were facing a crisis in the health sector.
This situation, Magagula said was very difficult at the moment, especially because they lacked the necessary resources.
However, he said government was doing everything and working around the clock to alleviate the situation.

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