Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Either Baragwanath or pray and hope you don't get sick - memoirs of my visit to the hospital

You've got to love politicians and how they think people's livelihood is just a piece of protective rubber used in sexual enjoyment. You've got to love them. I mean we have always been promised this and that and these bastards will sleep in our shacks and kiss our malnourished babies when they are desperate for us to make that cross that will send them to power. Fuck them and their promises. You've got to love government employees, just like politicians they too like politicians think our livelihood it at their mercy, fuck that. Like politicians, govt. workers are lazy, stupid and think they know all. After writing this I pray to God that I do not get to need the service of any politician or govt worker (I don't think they will be willing to help me after reading this).

On Monday the 31st August I was at CHB taking my dad after he was referred by a private GP. We got there at 07H00 in the morning with the hope that we will be done by mid day since this was a referral and a larger part of the diagnosis was already done by the referring GP. My, my, my, it turned out to be the longest day of my life and in tow was a seventy year old man suffering from 'heart failure' which was made worse by the fact that he was under severe shortness of breath.

Before I get to explain the kow tow for the day I must tell you that my dad does not seem have a good dealing with CBH and I doubt if he ever will. On his last admittance to this hospital they lost him. WHAT? You ask. Yes they lost an old man in the system and we were going from one ward to the other trying to find him. After having my mother passing away at the hospital and experiencing how they handle the issue of telling relatives about their loss I started thinking that no one wants to tell the truth, maybe my dad had passed away. Imagine the trauma for that day.

Well getting back to the incidents of Monday the 31st. We get to the casualty ward at 07H45 or there about and we are met by one registration officer and my or my was he dragging his feet. Paramedics in their 'nice' (pun intended) would come in and jump to the front of the queue and four of them did that. Talk about lack of planning, this hospital is supposedly "the biggest" in the world and caters for a population of close to a million (in Soweto alone) and only and having one person at admission is a bit incompetent for me. Doctors were steaming in as we were at admission. We get through the process after the arrival of a second officer at around 08H30 and are then sent to observation in "bay 4" just down the corridor. At bay 4 we are made to wait outside and in the meantime doctors are chatting to colleagues and nurses do the same. An auxiliary nurse walks in at 09H00 and declares that he is going for tea. Wow I wish I was a govt. employee as well, get to work late and have tea.

At 09H30 the first assessment is performed on Mr. Malinga Snr. (And this is recorded in the file). He is told to go to bay 1 to see a doctor and I am told to wait outside of the casualty area (literally outside) as "escorts" (that's what we are called, not even family but escorts. I feel like an up market for lady of the night or some gigolo).

Well I waited and waited and waited and waited and waited (just to show how long I waited). At 12H30 I decided to go into the casualty unit and find out what's happened and I approached the nurse who told me to wait outside and the first thing she did was to be defensive: "maybe you were called and you were not there". Hhayi-bo! I was there, I sat in those benches underneath that shack called a waiting area, I can tell you about the heat in there, I can tell what happened every minute I sat there. I was sent to go check him and Bay 4 and there was Mr. Malinga Snr. sitting there sleeping on a wheelchair and not being attended to. He had just got back from Radiology department. I left him there and outside I went as we 'escorts' are not allowed inside.

At 15H10 I went in again to determine the status of admission and now the old man was in the corridor and he was just wheeled in there. Nothing no word, just wheeled there and left in the corridor. I hate Bara with every tendon in my body, I hate the hospital.

I must say a hypoglycemic old man sitting without being attended to in a hospital is not a good health practice especially if you do not know when last the man ate. Well Mr. Malinga Snr. last ate at 07H00 before we left for the hospital. Since I had brought in a lunch box for him I made him take it. A nurse in a nearby cubicle told us that we have to get to ECG/Scan and voila that is the door just next to where the old man was dumped. In the process all the doctors who were steaming in when we were sitting at admission were now streaming out all of them. We stood there and the snack finished and the good nurse took our file to a doctor on Bay 1 and only then did that doctor admit the old man. So he was admitted by a doctor who had just come in and saw him sitting there coughing and struggling to breath.

I was given a green file to go and register him and pay. To my surprise the time of admission is noted as 14H30, bloody hell it is. At the cashier I come back with a file that has no admission stickers, well that's good for the biggest hospital in the world and in Africa. I wouldn't be surprised if they lose the old man again and also administer wrong medication. I also wonder what time is registered on the system since the card says 14h30 and if it says otherwise how we justify the time gap. Perhaps I took the file and went to the nearest shebeen. Escorts are always at fault and the educated health staff and govt. employees are always correct after all we are told that we always want to tell them how to do their job.

Malinga Snr was taken back to Bay 4 and from the cashier I had to go back there and I was told to leave his file with him and wait outside. I sat there and then started writing this piece. All the patients I saw in casualty in the morning were no longer there, I guess some had now been allocated beds. I sat there and wrote and all the time the pain of my father coughing in the cubicle was unbearable. There was no sense of urgency, none whatsoever. Patients who came in after 14H00 were being wheeled just past me and my dad was coughing his lungs out all sited in a wheelchair. I guess he was not an emergency case. Maybe I should have called an ambulance to bring him in instead of me driving him there.

At 17H28 a porter comes out with my dad (I actually looked at and noted the time) and off to admission Ward 20 we went. Again I sat there waiting for a doctor and more patients, those we left at casualty were wheeled just past me. I hate Baragwanath Hospital and everything it represent: bad service, laxity, abuse of human and patient rights, democracy gone bad, you name it.

I do not believe in Armageddon but should it happen I am pleading with its initiator to start with Bara in the destruction of all that is not good.

It is 18H15 and I am sitting at Ward 20 still waiting for the old man to be admitted. I am wondering what would have happened if I had dropped him off in morning and went to work. I wonder why didn't I listen to him when at 15H10 when he pleaded with me to take him home. I am hurt, I am crying internally of how this hospital has failed my father and I have been the one experiencing that. It pained me when the old man asked to be taken back home. I didn't leave him there because ny gut told me that he will just sit there with no one attending him and he will told that he is "discharged" with no one to take him home.

Over the years I have lost hope and trust in politicians and civil servants. I once told my wife that 'only the educated are free'. I said so because I believed that the educated know their rights and will never be taken for a ride.

Now I strongly believe that only the rich are free, why? Well because they can buy themselves the best services rather than be at the mercy of politicians who can't define service delivery without mentioning commission of inquiry. The rich can use the wealth to get themselves better service rather than sit under a shack-like waiting area at Bara and have your dignity and rights trampled upon. The rich do not need to hold home affairs officials hostage in order to have their books of life delivered to them.

Well what do you do if you are one of the million poor South Africans? Just hope you don't get sick and be sent to Baragwanath Hospital. Just pray and hope.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ours is a greater cause

Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) have been at the centre of almost every political debate since inception, especially when the issue of employment and provision of skills is on the table. Being part of a contingent that has taken the mantle to deliver on the promises of the National Skills Development Strategy, I have been overwhelmed at the contribution we have made unaware to the lives of thousands of South Africans. Politics aside, if you ask me now if the SETA system is working, without reservation I will boldly tell you that the system is well on track and YES it is working.

I will not attempt to write about the shortcomings of the systems neither do I attend to appear like the paid piper who plays the tune of the master. One thing that I am prepared to do is to profess like the biblical figure who once cried out: “One thing I know though is that the blind can see and the lame can walk”.

Through the National Skills Development Act we are steadily perfecting a system that has taken other countries years and years to perfect. Ireland for example is said to have taken 40 years to fully reap the rewards of education and training authorities. It has taken South Africa just 10 years to produce learnership graduations. Debating about the absorption of these learners by the market will be reserved for future articles but for interest sake I will say that official statistics show that the learnership of one particular SETA has resulted in more than 80% placement over the years.

As I am writing this I am attending a graduation ceremony, my second in a series that cuts across all provinces. In this graduation, taking place in Johannesburg, more than four hundred young people were conferred with a nationally recognized certificate. This is not just another graduation as you might think. This is a graduation of people some of whom thought it was the end of a dream when they completed normal schooling and realized that they cannot embark on further education due to lack of funds. Thanks to the Skills Development Strategy and thanks to the SETA system these young people can now see brighter future for themselves.

During the first graduation that I attended in Polokwane, a province to the north of the country, I couldn’t help myself but shed a tear. There were less graduants there, about thirty to be exact but what was more touching was the fact that the number of guests doubled the number of graduants. By guests I mean parents and well wishers excluding honoured guests and the academia. Every time a learner ascended the stage to be conferred, ululations would fill the room and parents would recite their children’s clan names. It was a very touching ceremony. After all the festivities I saw a mother who tightly embraced her son and danced with him as tears cascaded her face.

In this graduation here in Johannesburg, I have witnessed all forms of African traditional dances as fathers danced and stomped their feet as their children left the stage with their capes on. All these are parent, some of who could never have afforded to send their children to institutions of higher learning.

Now I will say with conviction that the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) are producing results. No matter what politicians; doomsayers and their ilk say, the Skills Development Strategy is producing the intended results. Just because the Sills Development Act is not benefiting one section of the population, like the previously manipulated Manpower Training Act, it cannot be therefore be seen as being ineffective.

The problem is not with the Act or the Strategy or SETAs. The problem is with people who see the system as a cash cow to enable them to realize their self fulfilling dream of financial enrichment. I believe that skills development is a cause greater than petty politics; greater than selling newspapers with corruption stories and it is also greater than any individual’s personal ambitions of being rich.

Our cause, as people who are mandated to implement the Skills Strategy, is a greater cause. We cannot stop trying. We cannot stop running. We simply cannot fail as there are decades and decades of inaccuracies that we have to make right. We also cannot expect to achieve our goals overnight.

If anyone still doubts the impact of the National Skills Development Strategy; the Skills Development Act and the Sector Education and Training Authorities just ask them to talk to a learner who has been through the system. Let that person talk to a parent whose child has been through the system.

Let no one betray this cause. FORWARD TO A SKILLED SOUTH AFRICA!.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Black on Black violence

The black on black violence that gripped our country in the late 80’s and early 90’s has resurfaced, much to the detriment of our progress as a people. The first uprising of this self made annihilation saw the apartheid government sitting back and folding arms and actually terming this catastrophe ‘black on black violence’. YES the term came from government circles.

A decade into democracy black people are speaking the language of economic empowerment. We are no longer “hewers of wood and drawers of water”, we have stood up from the fall and dusted ourselves, so it would seem. Alas, ghosts of the past continue to haunt us in the way in which we continue to look down and disrespect each other because of the colour of our skin. This is metamorphosed black on black violence. It has now emerged in business circles, in our churches and in the way we perceive our (black) government. Our black sisters are master tacticians, great generals and commanders of this violence. What am I ranting about, you ask? Self hate.

It is quite disturbing to see black chief executives and managers not receiving the same respect or recognition from their black colleagues and subordinates, you should see the very same colleagues under a manager of different race. Some executives resign their positions citing that there remnants of the ‘old order’ in corporations not knowing that their black counterpaths have helped conspire against them. Black female managers can tell you that not only have they got to contend with chauvinist male colleagues but also spiteful sisters who will look down upon them based on where they stay, what they wear and so forth. And boy, if your command of the queen’s language does not match that of the educated natives, then you are in danger of being labeled by whatever term you mispronounced.

Please don’t tell me that black managers are not authoritative enough or that they are dictatorial hence their colleagues and subordinates not affording them the respect they deserve, I refuse to believe that. For me it boils down to one reason, we hate ourselves so much that we do not believe that anyone of our skin colour can actually be something good in life.

If a black person achieves something we try to find reasons of his achievements having come in an unbecoming way. If it’s a sister we go as far as saying she has slept her way into the position.

This is even in our churches, how many times do we hear of ministers being kicked out of churches by church councils and congregants. People even resort to toyi-toying in churches and hurl abuse at each other. Surely you can’t tell me that situations are so bad in that we can’t come up with amicable solutions to whatever the problem is. We are so caught up in wanting to see the failure of another black person. Our government has also bore the brunt of this violence. Some people go as far as saying “beyingcono i-government yabelungu” (we were better off under the white government). If it were so then why weren’t we given the vote and all privileges that came with it? Are we patiently anticipating the failure of the black government that we are blurred from some of its achievements? It seems the Sotho saying setlhare sa motho o motsho ke lekgoa (for things to go right in the eyes of a black man put a white person in charge) is correct.

What is so amazing is that we are very quick to form war camps and run to the media when there are problems in our fold. We don’t even make attempts of giving each other advice or try to solve our affairs. We are like soccer fans waiting for a goal in that when it is scored we don’t look at how it came but we just jump for joy at the expense of another.

Is this just a remnant of the apartheid system of being constantly undermined and made to feel inferior? Maybe, but we should be careful. Black on black violence threatened our livelihood and our progress in the nineties and it is doing the same in the BEE era. And what is the other race doing? Sitting back and folding arms. And by the time our bickering eventually ends, we will wake up and realise that we have lost all that our forebears fought hard to attain.

Celebrate the achievements of another black person and see how liberating and motivating it is. Black man you’re on your own.