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Children of Fire Regional Report Port Elizabeth

Updated 26 April 2003

This regional report will be updated each time fresh information is available. It is published on the website in imperfect form because people need information now. Feel free to email us where there are factual or spellling inaccuracies.

Port Elizabeth Fire Station firefighters say they can reach all the areas - they also have 4 x 4s that they use to go in when the roads are bad. There are 16 main squatter camps in the area. Mr Nilton Whiteboy, Divisional Officer, at the Fire Station has more information: Tel: (041) 585-2311 or his fire chief Mr Andre Deridder. The typist Bernita has email: bstrydom@pecity.co.za but she doesn't answer emails that she receives! Ciska Burger who handles emergency calls (but who thought Dora Nginza Hospital was a private hospital and who could not provide a working telephone number for the ambulance services!) says that the person in the fire brigade with most information is the secretary Sandra Schmidt.

The only state hospital admitting burns patients in the Port Elizabeth metropole in April 2003 is Dora Nginza, which has a burns unit. Livingstone Hospital (041 405 9111) is the largest hospital of the three metropole hospitals, and takes burns patients only if they need ventilation in the intensive care unit. The third hospital, Provincial Hospital (041 392 3911) does not admit burns patients at all except maybe to do some plastic/reconstructive surgery at a later stage. No other hospital in the referral area will admit any burn patient - this includes Humansdorp, Kareedouw, Joubertina, Cradock, Somerset East, Middelburg, Grahamstown, Port Alfred and Paterson. Uitenhage Provincial Hospital which is close by, has a small burns unit but they also refer to Dora Nginza in a haphazard manner so their entrance criteria are unclear.

The head of the Ambulance Service is Victor Mabenge 041 453 4305 (or inside the area for emergencies 10177). A helpful assistant Vuyani Veto named squatter camps in the area as: New Brierton, Kwazakele, Soweto-on-Sea, Veeplaas, Zwide, Motherwell, Kwanoxolo, Joe Slovo, KleynSkool, Mission Vale, Chris Hani, Arcadia, Walmer and "one on the R75".

In September 2002 the Dora Nginza hospital faxed Children of Fire an advertisement for occupational therapists (among 15 other small adverts) that had been carried just once on an unknown date in the Sunday Times (a national not a local newspaper). It said that the OTs should: "compile activity programmes according to the medical records and specific needs of patients. Design and fabricate splints and aids to assist the patients to improve their body functions. Visit patients' dwelling places, working places and social environment. Maintain case records." There were apparently no applications for the posts at that time and yet there were unemployed OTs in PE who wanted work.

However, after eight years of negotiations, Marianne Weideman, the OT based at the provincial hospital 041 392 3911, has a new OT joining her on May 1st 2003. Two more posts have been offered to other OTs and accepted and funded - so the situation is improving dramatically in the near future.

Children of Fire is likely to assist with transport costs for child patients who could not otherwise attend regular therapy sessions and in the short term might also help with splinting materials. Part of this may be through a small grant secured from Johnson and Johnson.

For years there was only one occupational therapist for the whole metropole. [Read the website section on Babalwa and one sees the damage done by having no OT to help paediatric burns cases]. The OT was the head and only member of the department, and was based at Livingstone Hospital. She did not do any work at the Burns unit as there was no splinting equipment, and she has other work to do at Livingstone. In late 2002 a surgeon directed a German occupational therapist to assist her in the afternoons as this volunteer had been sent to Aurora, a private sector rehabilitation centre for mentally retarded children. "Numerous motivations for an occupational therapy post or even sessions have fallen on the deaf ears of the MS Dr Magaqi. Even taking an unemployed OT to meet him, to prove that their are OTs in Port Elizabeth who need the work, made no difference. Despite rhetoric to the contrary the Eastern Cape Health department does not see burns as any sort of priority and do not intend to adequately staff or fund the unit. At one stage it even banned the use of any volunteers!"

The Dora Nginza Hospital Tel: 041 406 4111 is one of the sad cases in South Africa. It is a brand new, very modern hospital in the rural areas - some 10 kilometres from Port Elizabeth and only 20 per cent of it is in use.

The Medical Superintendent (April 2003) is Dr Patrick JP Sendyose; secretary 041 406 4211.

The (non-medical) registrar is Mr Murray Carlitz Tel: 041 406 4210.

Ronda Deyzel assists management: ronda@hlthdnh.ecape.gov.za

The Paediatric Burn Unit of the Eastern Cape is situated in it - the staff were helpful and appreciated being visited in 2000. There was a boy in the unit who was electrocuted with a surge of 7,000 volts, as well as bad hot water victims and one little girl who fell in a fire - she was only 15 months old. Plastic surgery was done on her at the provincial hospital and she was transfered back to Dora Nginza the Friday morning when we visited them. Clothes were also donated to her.

The nurse, Sister Booi said in 2000 that people in the area are receiving electricity, but don't know how dangerous it is. She talked about the usefulness of Burn Society congresses. Although friendly, she didn't want to give us to much information without permission of the Matron. She was however very excited to be in contact with Children of Fire. The Matron is Mrs Mabengeza (041) 406-4447. We told Sister Booi that Children of Fire needs statistics to set up a network for more effective help. She said they will provide us with any information that we need. They also have children from time to time who are abandoned. The doctor that is the consultant at the burn unit is Dr Linda Jones (083 657 1334) lindawj@iafrica.com and there is also a paediatric burn unit in East London in the Cecilia Makiwane Hospital.

According to the two sisters in charge: Sister Booy and Sister Fellem, everything started falling apart during 2002. They are scared to give details. Dr. Jones still helps the hospital sometimes but has to work at two other hospitals. There are only two other doctors: Dr.Ayub and Dr. Ngema, but they are not only responsible for the burn unit.

The staff were cut to only 14 nurses (on shifts) to take care of the paediatric unit (18 beds), the male and female unit (15 beds each). They don't have an ICU unit, yet the expensive beds and equipment are there, covered in dust, but no staff. They did secure a physiotherapist eventually on the government scheme that now insists these professionals give a year of community service before qualitifying, but no occupational therapist. If a patient needs ICU treatment, they refer them to Livingston Hospital, where there is no burn unit. They made use of volunteers to help feed and wash the patients.

Among the eight children in the ward (August 2002), there were two boys who are badly burned with petrol (3rd degree), shivering under the blankets. There was no heating system in the ward and the flies were circling above the beds. The patients also didn't have personal report cards at their beds. Hygiene is vital for safe recovery from burns as sepsis - infection - is one of the biggest killers.

The staff remained dedicated but stressed.

The rest of the hospital is also almost empty (with equipment and beds), but everything covered in dust.

The outpatients admissions hall has never been used since 1993 when the hospital was built. It is a modern place, but even the nurses hostel is now allocated to government departments and the police for offices.

The Provincial Hospital has a special initiative to provide clothing for patients - The Samaritan's project - which is handled by Colleen Calitz (041) 392-3315, email: colleen@hlthpep.ecape.gov.za The Assistant Director-Nursing is Mr. G.S. Smith.

Five years ago the Assistant Director-Nursing, became aware of a desperate need to provide indigent patients with warm bed clothes, especially during cold weather and winter as the operation gowns which are provided are inadequate. Financial constraints no longer allow patients to be provided with pyjamas and gowns. The desire to provide for the comfort of patients was shared with a visiting clergywoman from the Anglican Diocese who discussed the desire and need with her parish. The response was very positive and soon afterwards the "Samaritan's Project" was launched and is co-ordinated by the office of the Assistant Director-Nursing.

The nursing and the administrative personnel have taken a keen interest in the project. Criteria have been compiled for the issuing of these beautifully packed secondhand garments, which become the property of the recipient. The project has expanded since its inception due to the enthusiasm and dedication of the personnel concerned and the increasing need of the community, which the hospital serves. More congregations are now supporting the project. Patients are supplied with clothes when discharged; newborn babies and their mothers in need, are equipped with a set of clothes when discharged .. to mention but a few, as horizons are continuing to broaden.

The Samaritan's Project is very grateful to the church and individuals for their loyal support and the nursing and administrative personnel who are directly involved. An annual church service is held during November where the Samaritans dedicate themselves to serve for another year.

A researcher's* comment: "We were in Port Elizabeth on our own work and I mentioned at a public event the condition of the hospital. One senior figure from the UDM asked immediately: "Who let us in?" "Did we sign in?" "Did we really see the empty wards?" "Who did we speak to?" "How did we get all the information about the hospital?" We said he could phone us the following week for more information but he didn't do so."

Dora Nginza was a nurse in the late 1800s who died in 1966 - her grave is also on the premises - next to the entrance. She was something like Florence Nightingale in the Eastern Cape.






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