Last week Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital, popularly known as Tšepong, turned two. The hospital is still young but the institution’s huge presence in our daily lives feels like it has already been there for many many years. That the hospital administration has worked hard in the past couple of years is clear for all to see. Tšepong has managed to weather the storms that characterised its inception.
Many patients complained about the slow pace of service delivery, among a host of other concerns. This past week our sister paper Lesotho Times met with the hospital’s operations director, Dr Karen Prins who took time to retrace the steps the novel initiative traversed since its inception.
Among the wide-ranging issues she discussed was the challenge the hospital initially had in meeting the public’s high expectations. She explained that what had become a common theme of dismissing Tšepong as inefficient was in fact a result of multi-pronged birth pangs that included among others; overwhelming numbers of patients, lack of experience and familiarity with the new system by both the patients and some members of staff.
Thankfully, the hospital has developed systems which have drastically reduced earlier problems. What remains worrying is the hospital’s lack of capacity to deal with certain cases. This in some instances is a result of the nature of agreement Tšepong signed with the government that limits services the hospital can provide.
Among the services currently not provided are cancer-related chemotherapy, cardiothoracic and vascular surgery, and chronic renal treatment. The plight of renal patients is a painful one, especially to the patients and their families. High costs they have to pay every week in order to live, are not sustainable.
Since there was no agreement between the government and Tsepong to provide haemodialysis treatment at the hospital apart from acute renal failure treatment provided, patients are left with no choice but to seek services in Bloemfontein, three times every week! On each visit patients have to undergo a four-hour dialysis treatment.
The treatment costs M4 000 a week, this is in addition to another mandatory bill of M5 000 for monthly blood tests. The fact that the costs are so huge, on its own is a serious concern, if not the scariest part. Without such costly treatment, renal patients face sure death. It is for this reason that many, without any form of support, have resigned to simply allow nature take its course and die.
To worsen the plight of renal patients, while kidney transplant is the only surgical process that can lower treatment costs, Basotho are also unable to pursue this option because there is no enabling legislation that can allow organ donation and transplant (Law on Anatomy).