Thursday, June 13, 2024

Princess Marina struggles with high bed occupancy rate

In an effort to foster a culture of productivity and subsequently enhance service delivery, President Dr. Mokgwetsi Masisi joined a roster of presidents who have paid surprise visits to Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone. 

Dr. Ian Khama, the predecessor of President Masisi, made an unannounced visit to Princess Marina in 2008 to jerk up some of the civil servants sleeping on the job.

While the visit clearly caught the hospital staff off guard, it gave the president and his health minister Dr. Edwin Dikoloti an opportunity to have a better appreciation of the state of public health system. Such a visit cannot be discounted because they might hasten the deliverance of services. 

The high bed occupancy rate at Princess Marina, on the other hand, is a recurring problem that has become a ticking time bomb.

Recently, this writer had the opportunity to travel to Princess Marina to visit an acquaintance who had fallen ill. Upon arrival at the hospital, the friend was still stranded in the emergency section. This was two days after her arrival at the hospital. Upon asking her why she has not been served, she said she and all the people I was looking at crammed into the emergency section had been told there were no beds available.

That is not the worst part. Two individuals had passed away while awaiting a bed in the two days she spent at the emergency section sleeping on a bench. This publication is unable to confirm whether or not the two people who died had received medical assistance while awaiting a bed. 

The management of Princess Marina Hospital addressed the media more than ten years ago and lamented the shortage of staff that had existed since the 1990s. They added that this situation is worsened by the fact that the hospital’s catchment area, which extends from the country’s southern region to Dibete, includes all clinics, basic hospitals, and district hospitals there.

Unfortunately, years later, the hospital is crumbling under pressure as the bed occupancy rate surpasses 100%. A hospital should operate at no more than 85% capacity to be seamlessly efficient, but Princess Marina, according to medical health officers who spoke to this publication, is running at a higher capacity, leaving little room for contingency situations.

“A threadbare hospital bed capacity filled to the rafters, combined with insufficient clinical staffing, is a recipe for disaster. Overcrowding in hospital beds results in more medical errors, lower patient happiness, and increased staff workload and stress,” said a doctor who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity.

He also stated that staff morale at Princess Marina is at an all-time low due to an abundance of work. As a consequence, most basic medical duties have been relegated to unqualified support staff, and sometimes to students on attachments.

A report titled “Public Health Infrastructure in Botswana” penned by Naresh Pathak at the James Lind Institute (JLI) states that “the existence of limited and inadequate resources have increased the challenges associated with quality care and incapacitated the delivery of services provided by the hospitals. Inequities and inefficiencies in the distribution of inpatient beds and other health services or facilities are challenging. “

In addition, the report states that “poor working conditions and comprehensive retention strategies fail to attract and retain skilled or trained personnel”.

Although more still needs to be done, there is no doubt that President Masisi’s visit to Princess Marina is the first step in the right direction in improving service delivery.


Read this week's paper