Eastern Cape and Limpopo: Health systems in intensive care
Patricia Kopane, DA Spokesperson on Health
20 May 2012
Poor administration in provincial health departments is undermining health service delivery.
The Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, must explain to Parliament what steps his department is taking to prevent the collapse of health systems in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.
In the Eastern Cape, a moratorium on the appointment of new doctors is putting unsustainable pressure on health practitioners, with doctors reportedly having to see hundreds of patients a day. Shortages in life-saving medicines are threatening the lives of those who cannot afford to pay for their own treatments.
Medical practitioners in and around Mthatha are threatening industrial action because the Eastern Cape Department of Health is not paying their salaries. The South African Medical Association (SAMA) said in a statement that several doctors have not been paid since December last year. Reports indicate that 30 doctors from one region and 6 900 community workers who get a stipend for assistance in provincial clinics were not paid last month.
In Limpopo, failures in the procurement system have led to severe shortages in critical supplies such as insulin, antibiotics, anti-retrovirals and TB drugs. Doctors and nurses are reportedly buying supplies like gloves, swabs and protective clothing from their own pockets.
When I visited the Gakgapane hospital in the Letaba Municipality in Limpopo last week, I saw shortages in basic infrastructure such as beds and X-ray machines and was told that the hospital receives roughly 200 to 300 patients a day, but only has three full-time nurses.
Whilst health service delivery is a provincial competency, it operates under the stewardship of the National Minister of Health.
The parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health has oversight over health service delivery. I will be writing to the chairperson of the portfolio committee, Dr Bevan Goqwana, to request that the Minister is called to the committee to outline the interventions planned by the National Department of Health to address the situations in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape.
The health care system in poorly run provinces remains in intensive care. Minister Motsoaledi cannot be a spectator to the collapse of health systems in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.