At about midnight, 35 years ago, in 1986, I travelled in my car down Athol avenue towards Glenhove road. Things changed and, when I became conscious, I was in the wreck of my car. I was badly injured.
After a week, I could appreciate my situation: I was in the main orthopaedic ward of Johannesburg General Hospital. It was a 20-bed communal ward which had a diverse population of men with fractured limbs from motor car accidents and a whole slew, the vast majority population, from motor cycle accidents.
Now, on August 22, at home, I’d suddenly been taken short of breath. An ambulance was called. I got to the hospital, Vincent Pallotti, in a poor state.
From the hospital, I moved rapidly upstairs to the intensive-care unit (ICU). All this way, I was given some oxygen, bringing me back from being critically short of breath to really short of breath. So, things were going to get better. Things did get better. An operation was done and I’m now recovering.
And I had the opportunity to cast my mind back to the medical facilities of 1986 to 2021 to see in what way they are different.
The difference is astonishing. Firstly, no electronic devices. No bed TV. Mercury thermometers. No bedside monitors. No rebreathers. Nothing of the vast amount of electrical stuff we need to run a hospital today. One wonders if the recovery rate is improved with electronics. Another astonishment is the changed staff demographics. No whites. With the occasional whitie here and there, the hospital is staffed by almost entirely black people or coloured people. But not entirely South African black people;
there are people from Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya and various other parts of Africa.
They are incredibly well supervised, and they work incredibly well. When I say incredibly well supervised, they have a work ethic that drives them along, no problem.
They know what to do and they do it, and they do it down to the finest little detail.
If the regulations say you got to pull this string or tick that box or clip this thing in or take that injection, it’s exactly what gets done.
This is, I might point out, in direct contrast to some hospitals I have been in Johannesburg where the nursing staff omit certain requirements.
Vincent Pallott is an absolutely world-class hospital. The equipment is fantastic.
Now, it so happens that my dearly beloved Jennifer died in Vincent Pallotti, and in a general ward, and I wouldn’t have said a single good thing about Vincent Pallotti at the time. The treatment she had was absolutely awful. The nurses were rubbish and largely contracted.
Things have changed.
One is struck by the vast expense that goes into running this place. Protective overalls, masks and stuff are worn once and then thrown away. Sample bottles are used once and discarded.
It’s definitely no doubt that running this place is not a low-budget affair. It would be astonishing to think, or for government to think, that a place like this could be nationalised.
It can’t be – there’s just no way that you could convert it.
Which brings us to what is to be done about hospitalisation in South Africa?
The answer is staring you in the face. We have to spend the money that we’re going to spend on nuclear and political junk, and we must spend it on hospitals, like this particular hospital, to make sure that every South African has access to world-quality medical services.
Secondly, how to afford it?
Small deductions. I’m here in this ICU because I paid out R1 500 a month since I was 30 years old for the purposes of a hospital plan. The answer is to charge everybody the similar sort of money proportional of their income. And then, one day, when it’s needed, the money will be available. Bu there are other financial models – wait until next week.