DA KZN: Health oversight visits reveal areas in need ICU themselves

Dr Imran Keeka, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health

This week’s KZN multi-party parliamentary oversight visits to health institutions around the province show that healthcare has a long way to go – with certain areas needing to be placed in ICU themselves.

As the region with the highest incidence of HIV, we can expect higher than usual incidences of TB and other related conditions and therefore higher than usual death rates.

What we cannot accept is the fact that child mortality figures are on the increase. Malnutrition continues to cause massive healthcare issues for children ranging from mild to severe cases.  This speaks directly to the failure of programmes such as Operation Sukuma Sakhe.

While most hospitals that DA ML’s visited showed motivated and hard-working management teams and staff, some revealed neglect, mismanagement and downright contempt for the people of the province.

Some of the problems we found were;

–          Mattresses on floors

–          Staff shortages and/ or high staff turnover

–          Medicine shortages

–          Security issues

–          Collapsing infrastructure

–          Suspended staff

–          Nepotism

–          Linen shortages

–          Doctor/Specialist shortages

–          Alleged corruption at mobile clinics

On a positive note, there are hospitals that are suitably maintained and are being run well.  For example, the turnaround time at the Newcastle Regional Hospital Pharmacy is around 4 to 5 minutes. This is constantly monitored to ensure either no queues or very short queues.

It is interesting to note that this hospital adopted its service model from the Western Cape. In fact, KZN’s Health MEC was so impressed with the reduced waiting times that he asked for the reference documents.  Such practices where the DA governs can certainly be shared with many other KZN health institutions, if they will only welcome such innovation.

Another hospital visited was Osindisweni District Hospital within the eThekwini area which serves an estimated 477 000 people.  Despite being under severe financial constraints the hospital is well managed but it faces several major challenges;

–          A shortage of space

–          Ageing infrastructure including asbestos roofing which does not comply with established norms and standards (the hospital was built around 1960)

–          No TB Ward after it was condemned and then demolished. As a result there is no dedicated facility for TB patients

–          Insufficient medical equipment and tools for health professionals to do their work efficiently

–          Not enough CTG machines in the maternity ward

–          Only one place in the entire district where broken medical equipment and tools can be sent for repairs or servicing.  It was reported that in some instances it has taken more than a year for an item to be repaired and returned

How useful this week’s oversight was depends largely on whether MPL’s saw the realities and not just the areas where the work has already been done.  If the latter is case, then this whole exercise has been futile.

Oversight is not something that should be done once in a while by just a few. If the DA model of oversight is consistently adhered to – over time – there would be far fewer issues, clean and transparent governance and accountability from public servants.

Whether the KZN Speaker’s attempt to create such an environment will pay off, depends entirely on the political will of the governing party and the steps that are taken from here.