A woman who was in labour was refused help at the Bongani Hospital in Welkom on Sunday morning because she didn’t have the “correct” sticker on her clinic card.

She was sent to the Katleho Hospital in Virginia, where she was also shown the exit door and sent back to Bongani, allegedly because staff at Katleho said staff at Bongani should have examined her and given her a reference letter.

Emergency medical services (EMS) ambulance staff took her back to Bongani, where she was refused treatment again.

The EMS paramedics then called their Bloemfontein head, Ruben Ruiters, who called the hospital. Senior staff at Bongani then gave the order for their emergency room to admit the woman.

 A relative said it took more than three hours to get her admitted.

According to a new provincial policy, Bongani is a referral hospital and patients from Welkom have to go to two other district hospitals for treatment.

This has caused great confusion at the Katleho and Thusanong hospitals, where patients are often refused treatment if they don’t have a referral letter from Bongani.

They said patients in emergency situations waited for hours because ambulances were often busy driving between hospitals.