Mariette Pittaway MPL
Free State Provincial Legislature
The DA in the Free State has been fighting tirelessly to ensure that the provincial government delivers quality public health services to the people of the Free State.
More than a year ago, the DA warned the provincial government that unless urgent steps are taken, the Free State Health department would collapse. Premier Ace Magashule and his MEC for Health, Dr Benny Malakoane, refused to entertain our constructive engagement by continuously denying the extent of the problems public health face. Both Permier Magashule and MEC Malakoane accused the DA of opportunism.
The Premier and the MEC further went on to accuse the media in the province of having an agenda against the provincial government and that medical professionals are seeking to undermine the executive.
A year later, the Free State Provincial Department of Health is near total collapse. The welcomed intervention by the provincial treasury into the department has come far too late. The problems faced by the department are not due to a lack of funding, but rather due to administrative and financial mismanagement.
Premier Magashule and MEC Malakoane continue to misdiagnose the problems within the department. The measures adopted by the provincial executive are cosmetic. The problems faced by the department can be directly linked to an unaccountable and aloof political leadership.
The DA has repeatedly called on Premier Ace Magashule to fire MEC Malakoane. MEC Malakoane has shown that he lacks the ability and the political will to effectively deal with the health crisis.
Following the ever deteriorating situation with public health in the province, and no positive response to our constructive approach to prevent the crisis, the DA approached the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to investigate Human Rights violations by the MEC of Health, Dr Benny Malakoane, and the Free State Provincial Department of Health.
The SAHRC has written to us claiming that we have not submitted enough evidence to warrant an investigation. This is unfortunate because in our view we included sufficient prima facie evidence to initiate, at the very least, a preliminary investigation. In addition, we are of the opinion that there is enough evidence on the collapse of health services easily accessible in the public domain and should the SAHRC pay a visit to any public health facility, they would find hundreds of patients that would be too eager to share their ordeals with the Commission.
Our prima facie evidence submitted to the SAHRC included:
1) Patients sleeping in overcrowded wards and hallways, medicine shortages, lack of equipment, understaffing, long waiting periods for surgery negatively affecting the quality of life of patients at Pelonomi Regional Hospital in Bloemfontein;
2) Shortages of medical consumables and specific sterile packs for the treatment of traumatic wounds at the Botshabelo District Hospital which could possibly result in death;
3) Shortages of toiletries, detergents, linen, medicine and medical consumables at Bongani Hospital in Welkom;
4) Shortages of linen, medicine and medical consumables at the National District Hospital in Bloemfontein;
5) Shortages of ARVs at Kgotsong Clinic in Welkom;
6) Food shortages at the John Daniel Newberry Hospital in Clocolan;
7) Lack of medical equipment, medical consumables and food at the Dihlabeng Hospital in Bethlehem;
8) The closure of all three operating theatres, food, medicine and medical consumables shortages at the Boitumelo Hospital in Kroonstad;
9) Shortages of emergency response vehicles, ambulances and patient transport across the province in general;
10) ARV shortages, specifically D410 – Stavudine, at medical facilities across the province;
11) Access to healthcare negatively being affected due to critical staff shortages at various medical facilities. These include failure to appoint doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, nutritionists and suitably qualified hospital managers and CEOs;
12) Failure by the department to monitor cases and the treatment of Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR) and the extremely virulent and highly infectious Extensive Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR) exposing the general population to possible infection and risking an epidemic;
13) Failure to ensure the safety and security of patients and staff alike at medical facilities across the province.
Nonetheless, the DA in the Free State will this week launch a comprehensive survey throughout all our structures across the province. Our public representatives will assist patients at public health facilities in drafting affidavits so that we can submit actual cases to the SAHRC for investigation. We will also launch an advertising campaign in all major and community publications requesting the public to submit their health complaints to us.
In addition, the DA has officially requested the National Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, to place the Free State Provincial Department of Health under a Section 100 administration. We await his response.
There can be no doubt that only an immediate and drastic intervention into the provincial department of health can prevent a total collapse of public health services in the province.