Chaos erupted at the Tshepong hospital outside Klerksdorp in the North West on Wednesday when angry protesters reportedly denied doctors and nurses access to the facility, leaving critically ill patients unattended. A patient who had been stabbed in the neck, reportedly died waiting for treatment.
According to Times Select, doctors were asked to pay R20 by people blocking the entrance to the hospital if they wanted to enter. Doctors and nurses were reportedly flown into the hospital grounds by helicopter, but protesters then entered the hospital and forced nurses to leave while overturning dustbins.
A doctor who spoke on condition of anonymity told Times Select that the hospital was the only remaining functioning medical facility in the province.
A surgeon was reportedly attacked by protesters wielding bricks while trying to get to his car, but managed to escape uninjured.
The hospital has reportedly turned to buying medical supplies from private institutions as the North West provincial depot experienced stock-outs owing to the protests. According to Times Select, hospitals in the North West have run out of feeding tubes for patients who can't eat, as well as syringes and gloves.
Healthcare workers in the province have been striking over a variety of issues, including outsourcing, wage increases and unfilled vacancies. They also want North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo to resign.
But a doctor told Times Select that those preventing doctors from working were "tsotsis" who did not appear to be affiliated with any union.
Earlier this week, the South African National Defence Force's (SANDF) health department was called in to secure the Mahikeng provincial hospital, according to Eyewitness News (EWN).
Three people reportedly died last week after not receiving medical treatment.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi reportedly visited the facility on Monday, and said at least 24 babies have been delivered and dozens of patients assisted since the SANDF's arrival. The pharmaceutical depot is also being secured by soldiers, he reportedly said.
In an interview with Talk Radio 702 this week, Motsoaledi called those who chase away nurses "evil".
But the DA said the deployment of soldiers, while welcome, was too little too late. DA health spokesman, Tutu Faleni, said the party had written to Motsoaledi in March to warn him about the imminent collapse of healthcare in the province, according to a statement published by PoliticsWeb.