Dr Imran Keeka, MPL
DA KZN Health Spokesperson
The Democratic Alliance in KwaZulu-Natal can today reveal that the Newcastle Provincial Hospital ran out of the orally administered polio vaccine [TOPV] in mid-April.
This means that all babies born since then did not receive this vital vaccination before being discharged.
According to a professional source parents were instead told to go to the nearest clinic to have their babies vaccinated. Whether parents have done this, whether clinics had the vaccine or whether it was available later at the six week vaccine schedule, must be investigated urgently.
Certainly, those who may have been asked to return to the hospital for follow-ups – as in the case of premature babies – would also not have received even that dose.
The DA is deeply concerned by this.
Newcastle Provincial Hospital is a dedicated mother and child facility that has received much attention, especially after vital medical services were removed from the area of Newcastle West, leaving residents without critical care facilities such as a casualty department.
That a vaccine specifically for new babies is not available at the hospital is scandalous.
The fact that the last reported case of polio in South Africa was almost 20 years ago does not mean that this highly infectious condition and its consequences, which include paralysis or terminal illness, should be treated in a frivolous or trivial manner.
The State has a responsibility, and so too the managers in all state healthcare institutions, to ensure that current and future generations are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. Only an uncaring government would cause inconsiderate compromises in healthcare delivery.
The Democratic Alliance has today, during a Sitting of the provincial legislature, called on KZN Health MEC, Sibongensi Dhlomo to intervene immediately. This matter must be investigated to identify the cause of the problem. More importantly, the MEC must ensure that the vaccine is urgently supplied to the hospital.
The DA will also call for an urgent investigation by the KZN health department into whether such a situation exists in other clinics and hospitals around the province.