An unattended blood-soaked patient‚ “filthy blood-stained” sheets and dirty linen overflowing in a trolley.
That’s the scene a registered nurse claimed to have seen by when she reported for duty for the first time at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria on Sunday. Sister Arlene Classen detailed this “nightmare” in a letter released by the Democratic Alliance (DA) this week.
The Gauteng Department of Health‚ however‚ dismissed Sister Arlene Classen’s claims‚ and said she had in fact “left … patients unattended‚ which amounts to negligence”.
In the letter‚ Classen said: “What met me was a scene out of a nightmare. Filthy blood-stained sheets were on the floor‚ and not one person thought to pick up. When I approached a worker‚ she said‚ ‘Oh‚ that’s the night staff.’
“There was no soap‚ and no paper towels. All surfaces had blood‚ some fresh and some dried‚ on them. These counters are supposed to be kept surgically clean‚ with alcohol sprays at hand‚ and paper wipes.
“A blood-soaked patient was sitting in a chair‚ ‘waiting’ for brain scan reports. He was not fully conscious‚ but there was no trolley on which to place him‚ and he was totally ignored by the passing staff.”
Classen said she also found a dirty linen trolley‚ overfilled to approximately one meter above the steel frame‚ propped up against the wall as the wheels had come off a long time ago “judging by the dirt and grime underneath it on the floor”.
“No cleaners were in evidence‚ although they should have already reported for duty before 7am‚” the nurse continues.
“… I was told to inject [a] patient in the second bed‚ via a minibag attached to the main dripline. I checked the prescription and agreed that it should be administered‚ and I would have‚ except that nowhere were needles to be found. No drawer‚ no emergency supply cabinet‚ had a needle.
“The conditions in the unit were placing me in severe jeopardy as a registered nurse thrown into the senior position‚ and I needed to urgently distance myself from the situation.”
The Gauteng health department presented a different version of events.
“At about 8.30‚ the assistant manager on duty went to do rounds to verify the complaint. She found that the Emergency Unit was not filthy as stated by the Sister Arlene Classen‚ and there was no blood on the floor as she had alleged‚” said department spokesperson Steve Mabona.
“The assistant manager did not find bloody linen and swabs on the floor. The sluice room was also clean at that time. The syringes were available for her to administer the medication.
“This was Sister Arlene Classen’s first day at the said hospital and she had not yet been orientated and the agreement with all the nursing agencies is to bring their personnel on site for orientation prior to booking them and it looks like this was not done.
“This is done to prevent the possibility of staff not being orientated if the unit is busy. She was allocated with two enrolled nurses to manage 14 patients.
“She left those patients unattended which amounts to negligence.”
Mabona said Classen’s conduct dictates that the hospitals report her to the nursing council “which we hope will take decisive action against her”.
The DA’s Jack Bloom said he has written to the hospital chief executive regarding Classen’s allegations against the hospital.
“I am appalled that this happens at a hospital that is officially rated as the best hospital in South Africa. According to the latest assessment of the Office of Health Standards Compliance‚ the hospital gets 96% for overall performance‚” Bloom said.