Shortfalls Severely Hamper Health Care

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition.

The following is and address by James Masango to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature during the Debate on the 2012/13 Policy and Budget of the Department of Health.

The health department is a critical institution to the health and well-being of our people. But this department is facing huge and critical challenges.

Access to health in Mpumalanga still remains a serious challenge facing this department. Patients have to queue for long hours, and sometimes days, before they see doctors and have access to medication, and this trend continues at clinics and hospitals. Rural areas are most affected given the lack of ambulances, as well as the condition they are in when you are lucky enough to have one fetch you.

The decision by the executive to phase out mobile clinics was not well thought through and uninformed. Mpumalanga’s rural areas are vast and widely scattered. Considering the poverty of rural people, conditions of our roads and lack of public transport, phasing out of mobile clinic is far from a reality. And this decision must be reviewed as a matter of urgency to ensure access to health for rural communities.

We should applaud the Mkhondo Municipality farmers who started a project called “Tholulwazi Tholimpilo” led by Johnny Engelbrecht, who secured three ambulances as donations – two from the German government and one from Mondi. Currently in partnership with the department of health, two of these ambulances are already servicing the rural communities of Mkhondo. The third is expected to operate this year.

Patients with chronic illness still have to queue for their medication. In the Western Cape, chronic medication is delivered at your doorstep – the same with old age people.

Honourable Speaker, I understand the financial constraints the department faces, but the 60% vacancy rate target, is not good enough. We welcome the filling of critical vacant posts, but again the challenges faced by this department is its failure to retain its staff.

As long as the vacancy rate is so high, there will be frustration, low morale, negative attitude, absenteeism and ultimately high staff turnover. We sympathise with doctors, nurses and all health care workers in the state clinics and hospitals who, despite these tough working conditions, still go to work every day to assist the indigent people of Mpumalanga. We realise that there is only 24 hours in a day in which they can only do so much with the little resources they might have.

Honourable Speaker I am still concerned about situations such as on Tuesday night, when patients in Ward 6 of Bethal’s hospital, all of them women, had to go to bed without food. Not because there was no food, but because of absenteeism and a negative attitude of staff.

Honourable MEC as I spoke to you last time and the article from the newspaper I sent to you regarding the attitude of the CEO at Bethal Hospital, this is what we are achieving today. The CEO has no understanding or care of the importance of a good relationship between the nursing staff and the patients – let alone promoting that relationship. In other words, Batho Pele Principle does not exist at this hospital.

The DA’s concern is the failure by the Department of Health to spend on infrastructure and revitalisation for two consecutive financial years. Clinics and hospitals are needed to ease the burden of our overcrowded health centres. I hope the department has this time come up with a plan to ensure that this money is spend on the intended purposes – rather than simply getting rid of it.

Honourable Speaker, I won’t say much about the NHI pilot project, because the Department of Health is still far from complying with the NHI requirements. The department is also not doing well with HIV and AIDS as the prevalence rate has increased, the same with the child mortality rate.

More work still lies ahead with this department.

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