Tšepong on charm offensive

Tšepong on charm offensive

MASERU – QUEEN ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital, a state-of-the-art medical facility in Maseru, has a huge reputational problem.
Ever since it opened its doors to the public six years ago, that tainted reputation has refused to go away.
Patients often complain about poor services from the hospital staff.

Yet even when they complained, they would be met with a lukewarm response from the hospital management that too often seemed unsure how to respond. A disgruntled workforce only seemed to worsen things for the hospital. In 2014, nurses downed tools in protest over poor pay.
The government set the police on the protesting nurses. Several nurses were shot and injured during the protest.
As the industrial action dragged on, it was the patients who bore the brunt, with the hospital’s reputation taking a further knock.
Patients would often complain about the lack of courtesy by the nurses.

But yesterday, Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital went on a charm offensive with the hospital’s new spokesperson, Mothepane Thahane, taking journalists on a tour of the facilities. Thahane said the purpose of the tour was to educate journalists on how the hospital works. She said there was also a need for patients to understand the functions and responsibilities of the hospital to avoid making wild accusations.
Thahane said it is critical to address the hospital’s tainted image in the eyes of the public.

The tour was intended to break the wall of communication between the media and the facility.
“More people had started to have fears or ultimately stopped coming to the hospital because of all the negativity that surrounds it,” Thahane said.
“Our mandate is to provide health services effectively and efficiently and when such a face is put on us we cannot do the job we were mandated to do.”
The hospital’s casualty department is one of the sections that have received withering criticism from the public with people complaining about long queues.

“There has to be an understanding that this is an emergency and accident department not an urgency department,” Thahane said.
“We attend the most critical patient first,” she said. “Some of these patients need hours and hours of doctors’ evaluation and consultation. We are talking about gun-shot wounds, car accident patients, knife wounds, epilepsy, miscarriages and many other emergency issues way above a headache, stomach ache, common cold and other illnesses.”

Thahane said many patients do not understand that they should not go and queue at the casualty department when they are not injured nor have conditions that require immediate attention by a doctor. She said all out-patients should seek help at the Gateway Clinic near the hospital entrance.
They can only enter the hospital if referred there by the doctors at the clinic.

“Maseru does not have a district hospital and we have more flow of out-patients especially during the night when Gateway Clinic is closed,” Thahane said.
Thahane said under the contract between the government and Tšepong (Pty) Ltd, a company running the hospital under the Public-Private-Partnership, the hospital has to register at least 20 000 patients annually but the number since 2011 is 31 percent more.
“We are helping a bigger number than was agreed on,” Thahane said.

Mzondase Mohapi, the hospital’s general manager, conceded that there had been a communication barrier between patients and the hospital adding the new public relations officer and her assistant will address this challenge.
“They will also address patients’ complaints where and when they are not treated well,” Mohapi said.

Thahane said the problem is that the hospital is not functioning as it was originally intended.
“We are understaffed because we are both a district hospital and a referral hospital and people come in large numbers even for cases that are not emergencies,” Thahane said.

Currently the hospital has 84 doctors with 23 of these being specialists.
The hospital’s staff members stand at 875.
Addressing the issue of the strike and go slow that the nurses have pursued for over a year now, Mohapi said Tšepong and the government “are in talks on how to respond to the grievances of the nurses”.

Mohapi said when the hospital initially started operating in 2011, nurses employed by Tšepong were earning salaries that were higher than nurses who were working in government hospitals.
“But in 2013 there was a massive restructuring of government nurses’ salaries. This put a strain on the agreed way of handling salaries because there was a huge sudden difference in salary,” Mohapi said.

“This was not anticipated when the government and Tšepong had a deal,” she said.
“Now we have seen the need to restructure Tšepong nurses’ salaries hence the negotiations we are currently having with the government.”
Mohapi said she believed nurses working at Tšepong deserved better salaries.

Mohapi could not give a time-frame of when the discussions will end and what the outcome could be.
Tšepong runs the hospital, Mabote Filter Clinic, Qoaling Filter Clinic and Thetsane Clinic for the government.

Rose Moremoholo

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