DA calls on Human Rights Commission to investigate health equipment shortages
Patricia Kopane, Shadow Minister of Health
27 July 2012
A series of Democratic Alliance (DA) site visits to state hospitals in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Gauteng has revealed that chronic hospital equipment shortages are putting the lives of patients at serious risk.
I will today be writing to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) to request an urgent investigation into the impact of hospital equipment shortages on the rights of patients to have access to health care – as enshrined in Section 27 of the Constitution.
These shortages appear to be largely attributable to ignored requisition orders by provincial health departments, and the failure of these departments to pay service providers for the maintenance of critical equipment.
Today, I visited Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital with my colleague from the Gauteng legislature, Jack Bloom MPL.
We assessed the conditions faced by patients and staff, and discovered that patients in Gauteng are being treated in hospitals which face similar equipment shortages to those in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.
Examples of the poor conditions we witnessed today include:
• Materials used to make protective equipment utilised during radiation treatments have been exhausted, endangering the patients being treated;
• Two Brachy therapy machines used to treat cervical cancer are not functioning because the radiation source has run out. 159 patients are on the waiting list to be treated for cervical cancer;
• Two Cobalt - 60 units used to treat Kaposi-sarcoma are also offline because of the lack of the radiation source
The disrepair means that patients who have already been diagnosed with cancer cannot be treated effectively and safely.
Reports indicating shortages facing other Gauteng hospitals include:
• The Steve Biko Academic Hospital Oncology Department faces similar problems to the oncology unit at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital;
• The Natalspruit hospital’s only CAT scanner has been out of order since September last year. CAT scanners are critical to the diagnosis of medical conditions.
It is clear that the lack of basic resources in our hospitals has reached critical levels.
The right to health services is protected by the Constitution. The Human Rights Commission has a mandate to promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights. It is therefore incumbent on it to investigate the equipment crisis in our hospitals, and the subsequent impact on patients.
An investigation into this issue is essential if appropriate steps are to be taken to achieve redress where human rights violations are occurring.