One of the employees at the MEU, Mpho*, told The Star that operations within the unit were unbearable for both staff and patients as there were only two staff members attending to more than 150 patients a day.
“The working conditions here are unbelievable. I really wish you were here in the early morning, you have to see for yourself how full it gets here,” he said.
Mpho gave The Star an opportunity to witness operations at the NHLS unit.
Staff were expected to work at a fast pace and ensure efficiency within the unit.
Elderly people and people living with disabilities arrive at the hospital in the early hours of the morning, waiting in a long queue for more than four hours to get their test results.
Patients are put in groups of about 10-15 people, which has been an effective way to ensure that patients receive their results accordingly.
One patient, Sibongile Ngwenya, who was there to collect her daughter’s results, said there aren’t enough staff for all the people who visit the laboratory.
“There are only two people working there. It is so different from the Johannesburg General Hospital (now Charlotte Maxeke) because there are a whole lot of people who are taking blood, that’s why it’s faster there.”
“I honestly can’t expect them to be rushing, as there are only two people attending to us as patients.” said Ngwenya.
“If there were a lot of people, we would not complain, but seeing that they are short-staffed, we can’t complain.”
Ngwenya told The Star that she arrived at the hospital around 7am to collect the results, but got them only around noon.
Another patient, Ayanda Ndlovu, also expressed her unhappiness with operations at the MEU.
“I arrived here around 9am. We are put in groups of 10-15 people who will get their results, which puts us at a disadvantage.”
“We have to get our medication at the pharmacy, but when we get there, it’s already closed. It can be really inconvenient,” said Ndlovu.
Hospital spokesperson Nkosiyethu Mazibuko referred The Star to the NHLS, saying the hospital did not have any control over operations at the laboratories.
“We are rendering a service from the NHLS,” Mazibuko said.
In response to the allegations made by patients and staff, the NHLS’s Tebogo Seate said the number of people stationed at the laboratory was normal.
“We normally have one phlebotomist (a qualified person whose main duty is to draw blood) stationed at the MEU during the day and one at night to attend to patients who need to have blood samples taken from them.”
“Therefore, having two staff members to service 100 patients is normal and effective and not out of the ordinary,” said Seate.
According to Seate, a phlebotomist in the MEU attends to between six and 10 patients in an hour.
“Note that the turnaround times for getting results are dependent on the type of tests conducted – some tests take longer than others,” said Seate.
* Not his real name