JOHANNESBURG – A woman who works in the laundry room at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg says she often deals with a series of horror finds between clothes – from limbs amputated to babies; dead and alive.
"I've been working here for several years and we're never sure what we'll find when we introduce ourselves to service in the so-called dirty section, of the laundry. I have found dead babies and even babies who are still breathing wrapped in bedding, "said the distracted whistleblower.
She provided two photos: one of a dead baby that appeared in the term and one of a blood-covered fetus.
The clothing is collected from several wards and shipped down into a metal gutter where it falls to the ground to be sorted. The sheets are often soaked with blood, covered in feces and contain placentas and blood clots. These dead babies are found at the bottom of the ramp, often wrapped in dirty linen.
The whistleblower revealed that they find dead babies several times a month. They complained about management but said nothing was done. Charlotte Maxeke Hospital CEO Gladys Bogoshi has not refuted these allegations.
"Sometimes they are found discarded as part of the trash by unknown people and end up in the laundry room as garbage trickles down the gutters. All reported cases are investigated and improvement plans are implemented to avoid a recurrence, "she said.
According to Bogoshi, when a case is reported to nursing management, midwives check the fetus and birth records to account for their deliveries and proper disposal. She said that in some cases, an unidentified fetus was found in areas outside the delivery room, which made it difficult to define which ward came from.
Jack Bloom, the DA Shadow MEC for Health in the province, said that this was the first time he heard of the problem.
"This speaks of a collapse in procedure and poor supervision in the wards. It is horrifying to think that babies are sent there with all the dirty clothes, "he said.
The Health Professions Council of South Africa has clear protocols on how medical waste should be disposed of, which includes segregation and bagging of waste in accordance with good international practice.
Waste disposal bags must be strong, punctured and color coded to identify the type of waste. All waste must be contained in packages that contain the contents to the point of disposal and disposed of in a practical and efficient way, minimizing any risk. By minimizing waste handling, fewer people will be exposed to it.
The whistleblower and his colleagues are afraid of contracting illnesses in the handling of hospital waste with which they should not cope. "We have masks and gloves, but is that enough?" She asked.
Bogoshi admitted that there were serious health problems for the laundry staff inadvertently exposed to blood-borne pathogens that are linked to the transmission of hepatitis C and hepatitis B among others.
She agreed that waste separation was at the heart of the problem and said that these issues were raised at the monthly meetings held by Infection Control Management.
However, as Bloom pointed out, the procedures are not working and management has not strengthened the processes to solve the problems.
According to the staff in the laundry section, the problem is getting worse. They are traumatized and many are looking for new jobs.
"It's very disturbing and I have nightmares," she said. "I asked many times for advice. I fight to sleep at night because of the things I've seen. "
Bogoshi said he did not know of any staff requesting an interview, and said the hospital has an Employee Health and Welfare Program that offered services, including staff debriefing.
Bloom said the horror is extremely painful and should set off an alarm. "That should never have happened, it's a symptom of something deeply wrong in that hospital, and what's even sadder is that instead of trying to find the criminals, management is more likely to launch a witch hunt for the whistleblower," he said.