World Aids Day puts spotlight on treatment challenges faced by HIV patients in South African hospitals

As today marks World Aids Day, the treatment and mistreatment of HIV positive and AIDS patients in South African hospitals is in the spotlight. File Picture: Pexels

As today marks World Aids Day, the treatment and mistreatment of HIV positive and AIDS patients in South African hospitals is in the spotlight. File Picture: Pexels

Published Dec 1, 2023


As today marks World Aids Day, the treatment and mistreatment of HIV positive and Aids patients in South African hospitals is in the spotlight.

The story of Gary Allpass is not an isolated one, nor is it an issue that should be ignored.

This is especially noteworthy after a report released earlier this week, showed that there are approximately 7.8 million people living with HIV in South Africa which is a decrease from 14% in 2017 to 12,7% in 2022.

Allpass has been living with HIV for over 30 years and is therefore not a stranger to hospital procedures.

In 2011, Allpass made news headlines when he won his Labour court case in the case of Gary Shane Allpass v Mooikloof Estates (Pty) Ltd.

In 2008, the award-winning horse-riding instructor and stable manager was dismissed by his employer for being HIV positive. It was found that he was unfairly dismissed. In her judgment, Judge Bhoola noted that “this court is indebted to the AIDS Law Project for its assistance.”

Now years later, Allpass is experiencing a fight with hospitals namely Karl Bremer Hospital and Groote Schuur Hospital. In a recent complaint lodged last month, Allpass raised serious concerns about his experience at several hospitals, shedding light on issues ranging from extended waiting times to perceived dismissiveness by medical professionals.

Waiting times at Karl Bremer Emergency Centre

Allpass's initial complaint revolves around the considerable delay he faced at the Emergency Centre of Karl Bremer Hospital.

The hospital's response acknowledges the challenge of long waiting times, attributing it to high demand and resource constraints. The hospital says it uses a triage system to prioritise patients based on the severity of their condition, but admits that addressing waiting times remains an ongoing challenge.

In a response to Allpass seen by IOL, the hospital said: “We acknowledge receipt of your complaint and do value all feedback and use the complaints management process to improve our services. We do understand that no apology or actions can undo the experience, but we are sincerely sorry for your experience. We also want to assure you that all the concerns that you have noted have been addressed with the managers in charge of the sections and corrective interventions has been instituted for these.

Medical Concerns and Treatment

The core of Allpass' grievance stems from his health issues and the subsequent treatment he received. On October 24, he noticed blood in his urine and sought medical attention at the Durbanville clinic the following day. He was advised to discontinue Warfarin, a medication he was taking. Later that day, he visited Karl Bremer Hospital due to persistent pain in his left kidney.

Allpass describes a distressing experience at Karl Bremer, where he waited for hours, passed a significant blood clot, and ultimately left after almost five hours of waiting. Subsequent medical appointments and interactions with healthcare professionals, including a kidney scan and allergy test, resulted in a range of conflicting information and perceived disbelief in his reactions to medication.

Communication breakdown and patient frustration

The patient, frustrated with the treatment received, voiced his concerns to the Quality Assurance Office. However, his attempts to communicate with medical staff, particularly with the Quality Control office, were met with difficulties.

Allpass reported challenges in receiving timely information about his medical test results and expressed dissatisfaction with the overall handling of his case.

Security Involvement and Escalation of Tensions

Tensions escalated further during a subsequent visit to Karl Bremer on November 7. Allpass recounts encountering resistance from staff, and at one point, security was called in response to his frustration. The patient alleges a dismissive attitude from medical professionals, emphasising a lack of empathy and understanding.

Hospital's Response and Ongoing Issues

While the hospital's response acknowledges the challenges faced, including extended waiting times, it remains to be seen how hospitals plan to not only address the specific concerns raised by Gary Allpass, but other situations like his.

This incident brings attention to the broader issue of patient experience within healthcare systems and the need for effective communication, empathy, and timely medical care. As Allpass awaits resolution and clarity on his health concerns, his case serves as a reminder of the importance of patient-centric care and continuous efforts to improve healthcare services.

IOL have reached out to the hospitals and the provincial Health Department for comment.