SA’s most expensive mental health hospital cost R2bn but is half-empty

After a 13-year construction effort that saw costs soar, the infrastructure stands proud but staff and medicines are in short supply and patients cannot be accommodated.

2020-02-26 07:30:00 AM

SA's most expensive mental health hospital: With a price tag estimated at R2 billion, Kimberley Mental Health Hospital in the Northern Cape has certainly left a big hole in taxpayers’ pockets but it is still running at less than half of its full capacity

After a 13-year construction effort that saw costs soar, the infrastructure stands proud but staff and medicines are in short supply and patients cannot be accommodated.

A monument of corruption at an unprecedented scaleZamani SaulWith a price tag estimated at R2 billion, Kimberley Mental Health Hospital in the Northern Cape has certainly left a big hole in taxpayers’ pockets.Originally budgeted at R290 million, costs ballooned as construction dragged on for 13 years.

Shivambu due in court over assault charge Tambo's son defends inclusion of ANC logo on statue SAA gets R10.5-billion government bailout

For long periods, the building site perched derelict and ghostly on the city’s fringes, with vandals and weather conditions destroying existing structures.“A monument of corruption at an unprecedented scale.”This is how Northern Cape Premier Zamani Saul described the hospital at its official opening on September 30 last year.

Media reports have recorded the hospital’s estimated cost at different amounts.When Spotlight put the R2 billion figure to provincial health MEC Mase Manopole, she concurred.It would appear, though, that the exact extent of cash squandered on the hospital is hard to compute.

Set among thorn trees scattered over dusty koppies, the new hospital sprawls across 336 000 square metres, its 36 orange and grey blocks jutting against the sky.Despite the magnitude of its impressive exterior, the hospital is still running at less than half of its full capacity.

Of the 287 beds available, only 110 patients can be admitted.This, top management says, is because of a lack of funding for staff and medical supplies.HAWKS INVESTIGATIONAs a Hawks investigation into the corruption allegations nears completion, Manopole, in an encouraging show of candour and transparency, has arranged for Spotlight to be taken on a tour of the premises.

At the hospital’s glass-encased administration wing, chief executive officer (CEO) Albert Links, acting nursing service manager Victoria Nero and assistant director of security Clement Kaotsane welcome us inside. We make our way to a boardroom on the second floor. Underfoot, pale tiles gleam in the sun. Walls are pink and grey, with chrome handrails flanking the stairs.

Now that the hospital infrastructure is eventually done and has been officially launched by the premier, we need to operationalise it in terms of getting services runningChief executive officer Albert Links“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” says Nero. “We really hope it stays like this. We hope and pray to God.”

Former state security minister Bongo back in court Malema hits back at AfriForum COVID-19: Ramaphosa in self-quarantine

There is a tangible sense of pride.At the boardroom table the hard questions are directed at Links.Given that it took 13 years to complete the hospital, at an estimated cost of R2 billion, why is even more money required to open the entire facility?“So, the money spent, that which you are referring to now,” says Links, “it was the infrastructural spend for the building. Now that the hospital infrastructure is eventually done and has been officially launched by the premier, we need to operationalise it in terms of getting services running.”

Links says more patients will be admitted, subject to the availability of funding.And the corruption allegations?“Obviously, I cannot comment on those as an investigation is being undertaken,” says Links.“All we can say is that there was alleged corruption and that it is currently before an investigation.”

Links started his tenure as CEO at Kimberley’s old West-End Hospital in June last year, later transferring with patients to the new hospital premises.FOUR PSYCHIATRISTSKimberley Mental Health Hospital is running at less than half of its full capacity. Pictures: Alicestine October

In terms of human resources, the hospital can afford to appoint four psychiatrists and 80 nurses.“We are looking at increasing that,” says Links.“But this number is reasonable for our current intake of 110 beds. We are breaking even. When we speak of opening more beds, we will need more staff. The problem is that the budget is not always sufficient to recruit and appoint a workforce.”

The hospital accepts patients from all over the province, he says.There are two types of patients: voluntary patients, who are referred by general practitioners – “someone who says: ‘I have a problem, I need admission’”; and assisted or involuntary patients, who lack that insight or judgement – “they are admitted by a family member or clinician, who make the decision on their behalf in the best interest of that person and for the safety of the community”.

‘PATIENTS ARE HUMAN BEINGS’Nero weighs in on caring for patients.“I always say to the staff at the induction and orientation that they must remember this: Patients are human beings. We need to understand that patients will also get angry; they will also cry.”

Over 500,000 COVID-19 cases reported worldwide in new daily record Shudufhadzo Musida's home village jubilant after Miss SA win EFF's Malema, Ndlozi return to court

Later, while walking around the State Patient Unit, in the M Block, Nero points out a “seclusion room” attached to a ward.The spacious room has a mattress on the floor, a window to the outside, a window looking out on to a communal area, a loo and a washbasin.

There are no sharp corners or edges – taps are operated by flat buttons built into the wall, and the water spout is rounded.“If the patient gets aggressive, the seclusion room is where he or she is restrained,” says Nero.“The doctor will come and prescribe medication to sedate them. It must not be seen as a punishment for the patient. It really is to protect the patient from harm and to protect the staff.”

Links adds: “There are no straitjackets, no chains, no handcuffs. No, no, we simply isolate the patient next to his or her ward in the seclusion room.”FORENSIC OBSERVANDIThe hospital has a 287-bed capacity and 110 patients. Pictures: Alicestine October

The hospital is situated down the road from the city’s prison.It is supposed to house “forensic observandi” – prisoners who need to be observed over 30 days to ascertain whether they are mentally fit to stand trial.But at this point, it does not have the capacity.

Prisoners suspected of suffering from mental illness are kept at the prison, with state psychiatry teams travelling to do the observations.At the time of our interview, 68 prisoners needed to be observed in this manner, with state capacity to observe only three a month.

This bottleneck poses a dire challenge to the departments of health and correctional services, and to the justice system.Should a forensic observandi be found to be unfit to stand trial, he or she becomes a state patient.“A state patient is someone who committed a serious crime,” says Links.

“And according to the observations done by our team, he or she cannot be held liable. So currently, we have 39 state patients.”At the time of our visit, the M Block’s 80 beds were empty – with the 39 state patients set to be transferred from the West-End Hospital.

Nero confirmed last week that the state patients had been transferred.GETTING BETTERInside the section, bright couches adorn communal spaces, with flatscreen televisions mounted on walls.To one side, a fenced-in courtyard is covered in AstroTurf.Along gleaming corridors, the smell of disinfectant hangs in the air. Bedrooms are sunwashed, with lime green beds covered in blue bedding.

Do patients get better? “Certainly,” says Links.“Patients who come in here, they don’t stay forever. The average length of stay for a patient is 17 days. Sometimes more, due to factors like social reintegration and so forth.”Our tour of the facility finished, the question hangs in the air: Is it not a waste of money to build a facility this large, if there isn’t available budget to put it all to use?

Links simply raises his shoulders and says: “Unfortunately, yes.”This article was produced by Spotlight – health journalism in the public interest.TALK TO USHow should operational costs – when they are made available – be allocated to enable the hospital to be fully functional?

SMS us on 35697 using the keyword HEALTH and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50. Read more: City Press »

The Fix | 25 Ocitber 2020

Thuli Madonsela suggests an amnesty can help to clean up corruption. #eNCA Courtesy #DStv403

Ok, so if you do the math, for 283 beds/patients they could have built each patient an R8 MILLION mansion... that's what R2 billion can buy you. The headline is negative but the article is inspiring, bring me hope for our country’s mental health system. But it’s too loud to ignore that there’re plans in place and failure to implement, and therefore failure to render services. The money spent is worrying.

We are now used to this nonsense we have been crying service delivery to this blue lights brigade for 26 years what can one expect. Why, just go to Parliamemt, you will find your clients there 🤡🤡🤡🤡

150 minutes of exercise a week can ease depressionDoing 30 minutes of exercise five times a week may help relieve mental health disorders.

Shoprite gains market share as store expansion continuesSA’s biggest retailer hits almost double-digit sales growth in core business during its half-year to end-December The canned recalls didnt cause a dent? Something does not add up here... 'double-digit sales growth'... Retailers are fighting for survival in SA.

Gauteng to build six new hospitalsGauteng will have six new hospitals in the next 10 years to meet its ever-growing demand for health services in the province. Building more..instead of maintaining the already built first..🤔 Strong It took China 12 days to build a hospital, we taking 10 years to build 6 what a joke

Mkhize to meet with commission following forced sterilisation report - SABC News - Breaking news, special reports, world, business, sport coverage of all South African current events. Africa's news leader.Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has requested an urgent meeting with the Commission for Gender Equality regarding its report on forced sterilisations at hospitals in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

TOM EATON: Zuma returns like unrelenting angry rashThe former president’s latest trip to Cuba was an act of solidarity with the global proletariat, not a rejection of SA hospitals One that itches and burns just on that part of the back us South Africans can't reach. 😡😠 Veil insult! He’s like a shingles rash - unwanted - roll on 6 May ! 50 Million law abiding citizens want to see him have his day in court !

SA will not be reckless in implementing national health insurance - Ramaphosa | IOL Business ReportThe government says the National Health Insurance Bill published last year aims to provide equitable quality health services for all South Africans. These idiots also say they fight against corruption. Did they initiate one trial by now ? DrZweliMkhize Hon Mkhize lets be honest. . . Will this benefit the average South African in the current state of our health care or is it something that will take Billions in expenditure? Who wins? Discovery Momentum_za Our_DA PresidencyZA jsteenhuisen VFPlus If hospitals are in a state of disaster, pension funds are already used to bailout failed SOEs, where do you think the BILLIONS required for NHI will come from? As far as I know, the ANC still owes billions to Austrian conglomerate Kapsch over failed etolls system.