REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON CORRECTIONAL SERVICES ON ITS 20 NOVEMBER 2007 UNANNOUNCED VISIT TO FOLLOW-UP ON CONDITIONS AT POLLSMOOR HOSPITAL SECTIONS, DATED 22 FEBRUARY 2008
In May 2007 a Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services delegation paid an announced visit to Pollsmoor Correctional Centre to assess the state of health facilities at the Medium A and Admission centres. The need for such a visit arose after the Committee received a number of complaints about the conditions in the Centres hospital sections from, not only inmates but also medical staff there. On that visit the Committee had found that the Centre was crippled by severe nursing shortages, poor supply of and control over drugs, little or no emergency equipment, incomplete patient files, poor hygiene and wards that were in a state that did not promote healing. On 20 November the Committee undertook a second unannounced visit with the intention of following up on the observations and recommendations made in May.
The delegation that visited the facility comprised Mr D Bloem (Chairperson), Mr S Mahote (ANC MP), Rev L Tolo (ANC MP), Mr J Selfe (DA MP), Ms W Ngwenya (ANC MP), Mr M Cele (ANC MP) and Ms C Balie (Committee Secretary).
The Committee is pleased to report that a number of dramatic improvements have been made since the visit in May 2007. The Area Commissioner informed the delegation that in its efforts to improve on the weaknesses identified in May, the Centre had taken the decision to return to the basics of compliance and to continue to improve from that point on.
At the time of the visit Pollsmoor had 1 doctor working in all sections. Although nursing staff remains a challenge, the staff component in this area has increased since May: 24 registered nurses have been recruited both through headhunting and the advertising of positions. In December 6 additional nurses will have taken up their posts.
The Committee realises that Pollsmoor is still experiencing a shortage of nurses and applauds the efforts made to move closer to their full staff complement. Addressing an official’s impatience at the slow pace at which nursing vacancies are being filled, the delegation stressed that bearing in mind the national shortage of nursing staff one could not expect the full complement to have been reached within the six months since the first visit. One could only make concerted efforts in reaching that goal, and therefore the Committee applauds Pollsmoor for the steps it had taken in the past six months.
Contrary to what had been the case in May, none of the drugs stored at the relevant centres had expired. Members inspected the padlocked storage units and confirmed that al medicines stored corresponded with what was contained in the logbook. Drugs that have expired are being recorded and sent back to the pharmacy.
Both hospital sections now had fully-stocked emergency trolleys and equipment.
The Committee randomly selected files for inspection and found no inconsistencies. The Department explained that in TB cases especially, files are often kept beyond the date on which an offender was released because unfortunately many offenders re-offend and end up at the facility again. Those TB patients who had served their sentences are issued with medical cards upon their release so that their treatment can continue outside of prison.
The Medium A Juvenile centre hospital ward showed a dramatic improvement. In the 6 months since the May visit the walls had been painted, floors tiled and adequate beds and bed linen provided. Although the delegation did not enter the TB ward, Members were assured that similar improvements had been made there.
The Committee emphasises the need for staff to ensure that the drug register is updated as soon as medicine is issued to inmates. It recommends that the issuing and taking of medication be closely and diligently monitored and controlled.
The delegation agreed that at the time of the initial visit Members had been shocked by the conditions they found – basic requirements were not being met and there was little or no conformity with the relevant legislation and protocols. Members unanimously agreed that those unfortunate conditions have been dramatically improved upon. They urged the management present to continue with the good work and assured them that the Committee would continue making follow up visits.
The Committee wishes to acknowledge and express its appreciation to Area Commissioner Mkabela, Rev Fry (Acting Area Coordinator: Development and Care), Mr Gertse (Head of Hospital Section) and all other officials who had at very short notice made themselves available to provide the Committee with a tour of the relevant facilities.
Report to be considered.