Horrendous state of EC hospitals prove Department not ready to implement NHI

Issued by Michele Clarke MP – DA Shadow Minister of Health
05 Dec 2022 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Michele Clarke MP. Please see pictures of the DA’s oversight visit here, here, here, here, herehere and here.

The DA welcomes the parliamentary portfolio committee on health’s adoption of the report of our oversights to four hospitals in the Eastern Cape on Friday.

The oversight to Dora Nginza Provincial Hospital, Livingstone Tertiary Hospital, Uitenhage Provincial Hospital and Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital revealed the horrendous conditions that health care personnel face every day in their efforts to care for patients.

One of the biggest problems facing the province is the avalanche of medico-legal claims draining the budget. Once accruals and medico-legal claims are deducted, a mere R4.6 billion of the R24 billion budget remain – this is not nearly enough to provide quality health care in all of the Eastern Capes hospitals and clinics.

One of the major problems the committee encountered at Dora Nginza was staff shortages. Despite the Clinton Health Access Initiative’s (CHAI) generous donation to upgrade the neonatal and paediatric facilities, shifts are under capacitated. Quality of care in the public health sector will not improve until the thousands of vacant nursing posts have been filled.

The conditions at Livingstone Hospital were some of the worst we ever encountered. From the stench that hit us as we entered the hospital from the medical waste and dirty linen lining the corridors to the unsafe infrastructure, broken equipment, lack of supplies and staff shortages – a recurring theme throughout our oversights – the conditions that the patients have to endure is inhumane. The surgical backlogs continue to increase, and as all of the hospital’s top management are temporary, a turn-around strategy seems a bridge too far.

Uitenhage Hospital’s oversight continued in the same vein – personnel shortages, with no indication of when, if ever, they would be filled; lack of equipment and supplies; and space constraints. We were told that the hospital had not received personal protective equipment (PPE) since 2018. Is it any wonder that non-clinical staff regularly strike in these terrible conditions?

While the Port Elizabeth Hospital has pockets of excellence and fantastic specialists, some of them are forced to work with overwhelming challenges. The state of the art Cath lab and neurology units, for instance, is in stark contrast to the rest of the hospital, which is in a terrible state.

Despite the overwhelming challenges, the clinicians, doctors and nursing staff are some of the most dedicated the DA has had the privilege of meeting and we commend them for their diligence and care towards their patients.

It is clear from this oversight, and the many others the DA have done throughout the year, that the vast majority of South Africa’s public health system is simply not up to scratch. Decisive intervention is needed, and the ANC’s foolhardy focus on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill will exacerbate the problem. South Africa deserves a quality universal health system where patients can be assured of the best care possible. At the moment, patients are likely to leave sicker than when they entered their nearest hospital or clinic. Unless the ANC government addresses these problems – not through useless and unconstitutional legislation like the NHI, but with practical and continued intervention – our public health system will continue to crumble.