Budget Vote Debate: Solve Free State Health crisis, fire MEC Malakoane

Mariette Pittaway MPL

Free State Provincial Legislature

Note: This is an extract of a speech delivered by Mariette Pittaway during the Budget Votes debate in the Free State Provincial Legislature yesterday evening.

The condition of the Health Department in the Free State is critical – it is in ICU.

Listening to Premier Magashule telling the people in Qwa-Qwa the reasons for the state of Health is outdated boilers and equipment dating back to 1954 is not only ridiculous but also very comical.

Premier Magashule, you had 20 years to replace the boilers, why was this not done?  You had 20 years to replace the apparent 60 year old equipment, why was this not done?

I will tell you why, because of mismanagement, corruption and a failure of political accountability.

When I say the condition of Health in the Free State is critical, I can prove it.  I daily receive telephone calls from doctors, nurses, administration personnel and even porters, working in the Free State hospitals.

MEC Malakoane, do you know about the critical conditions in our hospitals?  Do you know that people are dying because of the failure your Department?

  • Malnutritioned babies cannot be helped – no special milk available.
  • Nasal prongs used for babies not in supply – these cost about R2.50 each, but cannot be ordered.
  • No basic antibiotics available – sick children are just sent back home.
  • No saturation monitors (for the measuring of oxygen levels of babies) in working condition.
  • Certain HIV patients who have kidney problems needs special ARV’s (D410 – Stavudine) – hospitals and clinics don’t have – these patients are just shown away.
  • There are certain packs for certain injuries (i.e. head, stomach) – when casualties come in and the specific packs are not available, they cannot attend to the patient. It has happened that these patients then die.
  • Buthelezi Ambulance Services – gets paid per minute. Their equipment does not work, in one incident they were called to collect a nine hour old baby to transfer to another hospital – they arrived without an incubator and had to go back to fetch an incubator.  In another incident they were called at 4am to transfer a critical patient – they only arrived at 9am – the patient died.

These problems are not a result of outdated boilers or 1954 equipment or apartheid, these critical problems are as a result of mismanagement, corruption and a failure of political accountability.

The new state-of-the-art Mantsopa Hospital complex in Ladybrand was proudly handed over and a media release was made that it will open its doors to the public in January 2013.  It is now 19 months later and the doors are still locked.  Cleaners wash the floors every day praying that the doors will open while the occupational therapists guard their equipment. Salaries are paid out and the public are locked out.  The backyard has turned into a rubbish dump.  Is this because of outdated boilers or 1954 equipment or maybe because of Apartheid?  No, this is because of mismanagement, corruption and a failure of political accountability.

In June, disgruntled Free State community healthcare workers forced their way into Bophelo House.  People who had not received salaries for more than two months staged a sit-in inside the building. They were demonstrating after submitting a memorandum to health MEC Benny Malakoane several weeks ago.

The DA has been calling on Premier Magashule to fire MEC Malakoane for more than a year. We welcome the recent support from the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), the South African Medical Association and the ANC-affiliated NEHAWU, who are all calling for MEC Malakoane to be fired.

The Premier must now act.