MASERU – Lesotho’s only national hospital, Queen Elizabeth II, is overwhelmed by influx of patients and is battling to provide enough beds for the sick.
The magnitude of the crisis is clearly shown in the maternity ward where there is a serious shortage of bedding.
The Lesotho Times witnessed two women and their newly-born babies sharing a single bed.
Nurses said this was a common event at the hospital. The women however refused to be interviewed.
Nurses and doctors the main cause of the shortage of bedding because most people were coming straight to the hospital instead of waiting to be referred by the filter clinics.
“It is wrong but the hospital has to allow it because some government owned clinics in Maseru do not offer midwifery services,” said a nurse who refused to be named.
“Only a few private health centres have labour services but their prices are unaffordable to many,” she said.
“Sending them away would be morally wrong.”
A doctor at the hospital said the shortage of beds was also prevalent in other wards.
He said in some wards patients were sleeping on the floor because all the beds are occupied.
“The problem is that Queen II as a big hospital in the country admits too many patients that are beyond its capacity,” said the doctor.
“The problem is that most people are not going through the filter clinics. They are coming directly to the hospital and this put pressure on the limited resources.
“People are using Queen II as a clinic instead of a referral hospital. The hospital has been forced to deal with minor cases that should have otherwise been tackled at village clinic level.”
“The result is that the hospital does not have enough beds for those that are referred by the filter clinics,” he said.
A woman recently visited the hospital said she was shocked to find that her to sit on the bed all night because there were three babies on the bed.
’Maelisabeta Sera from Ha-Thamae said she was worried when she saw her sister sitting instead of sleeping.
“I know that my sister had been sick for a long time even before she became pregnant and as a woman who had just given birth I expected to find her sleeping.”
The shortage of beds in this ward is not new.
For years there has been an outcry that the ward’s capacity was being overstretched.
’Mankeletseng Nts’olo said she had to share the bed with her twins and another baby.
She delivered late last year.
“The other baby’s mother had to sleep on a mattress on the floor,” Nts’olo said.
Nts’olo said it seemed that most of the mother in the ward had come to accept the situation because no one complained. .
“The problem has been there for a long time so people tend to think that this is normal,” Nts’olo said.
But a solution could be on the way.
The Ministry of Health is planning to buy 400 beds for Queen Elizabeth II Hospital during this financial year.
Health Minister, Dr. Mphu Ramatlapeng requested National Assembly to allocate M179 806 141 for the hospital out of the M846 301 536 proposed for the entire ministry.
The government has also entered into a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with the South African based Netcare Consortium to run the hospital as well as building the new referral hospital at Bots’abelo in the southern part of Maseru.
Netcare Consortium is known for its well run health institutions in South Africa.
Sod turning for the new referral hospital was done yesterday by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.