The South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP) in the Eastern Cape Province voices its grave concern regarding the plight of patients and staff at the Port Elizabeth Hospital Complex (PEHC) as a result of staff shortages. Since the last SASOP position statement on the same issue was released on the 29th of June 2012, the situation has worsened to crisis point, leading to the simultaneous resignation of 3 Heads of Departments in the Complex in the last few days. This crisis remains unresolved despite being brought to the attention of the ECDOH and National DOH many months ago.
This recent loss of 3 experienced specialists in the face of severe staff shortages already in existence at the Complex further escalates the urgency for immediate intervention at both Provincial and National Department of Health level. Statistics recently released by the remaining PEHC Heads of Departments reveal an upsurge in morbidity and mortality rates in most of the affected disciplines. Mental health services are equally affected with many patients now denied access to specialist psychiatric outreach services as a result of the severe staff shortages. Those without access to psychiatric services now include children who were previously treated at specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Clinics at the Complex. This will only serve to deepen the mental health care crisis in the Province, which at present has the highest prevalence of youth suicide in the country. Expectations that the remaining staff at the PEHC will be able to keep services running efficiently after such a massive loss of staff are short- sighted and only serve to gamble with patient’s lives. Effective and urgent action needs to be taken by health authorities to appoint critical personnel if we are to avert a health care disaster in the foreseeable future. Failure to address this crisis will surely lead to a further exodus of experienced personnel tipping health services over the verge of collapse. The mental and physical well-being of all patients reliant on state health services in the Eastern Cape depends on such intervention. We urge the ECDOH and National DOH to act swiftly and decisively in resolving the crisis.
SASOP Eastern Cape Subgroup