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Over 2.5m visits to Gauteng's central hospitals
Pretoria – The number of people visiting Gauteng hospitals has grown phenomenally in the last three months, indicating an increasing pressure faced by the health facilities because of the burden of disease.

According to the Gauteng Health Department, the number of people attended to at the outpatient departments of central hospitals increased to 2 671 465 between January and April this year, an increase of more than 600 000 when compared to 2 038 600 recorded in the period between October and December 2012.

Gauteng has only four central hospitals, namely Steve Biko, Dr George Mukhari, Charlotte Maxeke and Chris Hani Baragwanath.

The number of people seen at district and regional hospitals also indicated similar patterns of increasing demand, with 762 968 patients attended to at outpatient departments of district hospitals in the last quarter, and 1 895 496 seen at regional hospitals.

In the preceding quarter, district hospitals had seen 577 202 patients, while regional hospitals saw 1 441 461 patients.

Unbearable pressure on staff

Health MEC Hope Papo said the increase in patient loads was placing unbearable pressure on staff, infrastructure, budgets and equipment at all facilities.

He called on people to make use of clinics for minor ailments and to collect chronic medication to ease pressure on provincial hospitals.

“The province has more than 300 clinics and 32 community health centres offering primary health care to patients. All community health centres offer maternity services and 26 of them operate on 24-hour basis.

“All community health centres and clinics now provide services for patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, epilepsy, TB and those on ARV treatment.

“District Clinical Specialist Teams, comprising obstetricians, gynaecologist, midwives and professional nurses, have been established to work closely with regional and tertiary hospitals to improve referrals from clinics and communities,” said Papo.

He also highlighted that the contributing factor behind the astronomical increase in patients at central hospitals is that these hospitals service patients referred by other provinces such as Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the North West.

In addition, countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland also refer their critically ill patients to these facilities.

“The province is facing a quadruple burden of disease that includes HIV and Aids, TB, chronic disease of lifestyle, as well as trauma and violence.

“Demand for orthopaedic operations to repair broken limbs now exceeds all surgical operations conducted in the province as a result of trauma cause by interpersonal violence and motor vehicle accidents. More than 10 000 orthopaedic operations are conducted in the province every year,” said Papo. –

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