James Masango MPL
Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition.
Health care services in the greater Nelspruit are headed for a nosedive as four municipal clinics are going to be shut down, only to be replaced by one understaffed community health centre.
In a move to “streamline” basic health provision to the people of Mpumalanga, the Department of Health decided to put an end to all municipality-run clinics, and would be the only provider of this service. This will in effect lead to the closure of the four municipal clinics in White River, Nelsville, Valencia and Nelspruit Civic Centre, with everyone requiring basic health services to travel to the newly opened Nelspruit Community Health Centre in Bell Street, downtown Nelspruit.
The decision is absurd to say the least, as the 13 nurses and one doctor appointed to the Nelspruit CHC are in no way able to provide round-the-clock basic health care to potentially thousands of people.
The DA cannot fathom how the Department could justify the closure of four clinics only to have patients converging on one health centre that stood unused for 18 months due to severe staff and budget shortages. Furthermore, how does the department expect to bring health services closer to the people when many will have to commute an additional 40-50 kilometres to reach these services?
The DA is also highly concerned about nursing staff at the municipal clinics who are said to be redeployed as municipal administrative assistants, and not be employed by the Department of Health. With a reported vacancy rate of over 59%, the department cannot afford to lose any of the available skills in the province – not to mention the potential labour relations issues that may arise from the redeployment.
To this end, the DA will submit formal written questions to health MEC Dr Clifford Mkasi and ask him to explain and justify the closure of the four municipal clinics, as well as to clarify how this decision will bring improved primary health care to residents of the greater Nelspruit area.
MEC Mkasi has been given a mandate to provide a decent and caring health care service to the people of Mpumalanga, and as a medical doctor, should fight harder to bring such services to those who need it most.