Why patients in Limpopo town face a 3-hour drive for treatment


  • A rural Limpopo hospital has to service people from two other provinces without a memorandum of understanding.
  • Ambulances from neighbouring provinces can deliver patients to the hospital, but Limpopo is not allowed to do so.
  • Limpopo health authorities say they are working to address the issue.

Philadelphia Hospital in Limpopo, which faces a total of R650 million in medical negligence claims, is again under the spotlight following a myriad of complaints that include a high infant mortality rate.

The hospital is situated in Dennilton, on the border of Mpumalanga and Gauteng. Almost 70% of the patients come in from the neighbouring provinces.

Ambulances from those two provinces deliver patients to the hospital. However, no ambulance is allowed to deliver patients from Limpopo to the neighbouring provinces.

This was being done without a written memorandum of understanding (MOU), thereby placing severe burden on the Limpopo health department’s finances because patients in serious condition have to be taken to Polokwane or Mankweng hospitals, both of which are around a three-hour drive away from Dennilton.

The situation was again brought to the surface after a recent oversight visit by a DA team, led by Lindy Wilson.

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Wilson said: “Funds meant for a Limpopo hospital are servicing patients from other provinces, but there is no memorandum of understanding between the provinces in question.

“Patients from other provinces with head injuries, which require CAT scans, are delivered to Philadelphia Hospital, but Philadelphia Hospital must transport the same patients for three hours to Polokwane for a scan, when Witbank Hospital is only an hour away.”

It was also found that the hospital delivers up to 35 babies per day, with no theatre for the labour ward to manage emergency caesareans, which lead to huge cerebral palsy and stillborn deaths.

“Emergency caesarean births will often be delayed by up to four hours until a general theatre becomes available. There’s also a shortage of beds, with mothers sleeping on mattresses on the floor.

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“The shortage of staff and infrastructure limitations make it impossible for the regional hospital to function within required standards,” Wilson said.

In his response, provincial health spokesperson Neil Shikwambana said: “We wish to make it known that, on the overarching issue of the MOU, the process has started and the modalities surrounding the MOU are being dealt with.”

He said authorities had noted other complaints and challenges.

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