Surgeries had to be delayed at Port Elizabeth’s Provincial Hospital on Tuesday after the only operational lift – to the theatre complex – was declared unsafe by the department of labour.
Staff also struggled to get food and medicine to patients.
The hospital’s theatres are on the first floor, making an operational lift essential.
Eastern Cape department of health spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha said the hospital’s lifts were inspected monthly.
“One of the lifts was found to be unsafe and after discussions with the hospital management, an urgent repair was instituted which will be completed before Friday this week,” he said.
The lifts have been giving trouble since 2013 and they have been breaking down one after the other until only one was left.
This has now been declared dangerous.
Sicwetsha said the department had already ordered two new lifts for the hospital.
“They are currently being shipped from Japan,” he said.
Work to install these is expected to commence at the end of May. Brian Paddey, from the Amputee Support Group, said: “It is disgraceful and a totally unnecessary state of affairs.
“Someone needs to be held accountable. Why do they wait until the last of three lifts is out of order before action is taken?
“The physical state of the only working lift last week is indicative of when last the lifts received any maintenance or attention.
“The creaking, groaning and strange metallic sounds as you ascend or descend are frightening!”
Paddey visits patients on the third floor who are hospitalised pending surgery for amputations. “Being disabled and currently on crutches, I was unable to visit my two amputee patients on the 3rd floor on Friday as I couldn’t get to them . . . nor can I do so now while the last lift is unsafe,” he said.
One of the patients who was scheduled for an amputation last week said porters came to fetch him and then the lift broke.
“I think it took them about 30 minutes to get it working again,” he said.
“I was scheduled to have my leg amputated so the lift wasn’t the biggest of my worries.”
Hospital sources said it was a struggle to get food, clean linen and medicine to patients.