MEC Malakoane a major threat to the health of Free-Staters

Mariette Pittaway

DA MPL in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

The below speech was delivered by Mariette Pittaway (MPL) during the debate on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill 2015/16 in the Free State Provincial Legislature today.

Honourable Speaker,

 

I stood here nearly a year ago and opened my debate on Health with the words: The condition of the Health Department in the Free State is critical – it is in ICU.

 

Now, 9 months later, I can start this debate with the exact same words.

 

There has been no improvement in the Department of Health, in fact, the situation has only become worse.

 

Four weeks ago, GroundUp, an independent news reporting project who mainly report stories relevant to social justice, published a condemning exposé on the collapse of the public health system in the Free State.

 

This exposé corroborates what the DA has been saying for almost two years now.

 

The DA approached the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to investigate the department last year and fought a long battle, spanning almost six months, for the department to be investigated.

 

The HRC have concluded its investigation and we are anxiously awaiting the outcome. We have received communication that the HRC investigation has been concluded and the report will be tabled soon.

 

Interestingly, both the National Departments of Labour and Public Service and Administration have investigated the Free State Department of Health and their respective reports will be tabled in Parliament shortly.

 

Honourable Speaker,

 

I have accompanied the Portfolio Committee on oversight visits to hospitals.  It became very clear that these visits are “announced visits” and on the surface everything looks not too bad.

 

But as it is my right as a Member of the Free State Legislature, and also my duty to the voters, and as a result of the daily – and nightly – calls I get from desperate citizens pleading for the DA’s assistance, I did oversight visits on my own.

 

What I found in hospitals like Pelonomi is horrific.

 

One of the hospitals I visited, the Winburg Regional Hospital, situated along the N1 and N5, which caters mostly for casualties of motor vehicle accidents that take place on these routes, I found to be functional.

 

This hospital received accreditation by the Council for Health Service Accreditation of Southern Africa (COHSASA) in 2009.  The COHSASA accreditation, which states the Winburg Hospital renders quality health care, is an achievement for a hospital as small as this.

 

Great was my surprise when I was informed by the community and staff that this hospital was changed into a clinic a month ago.  Medical staff lost their jobs and this essential hospital, the only one next to the N1 between Kroonstad and Bloemfontein, no longer exists.

 

My concerns are:

 

  • When was this decided?
  • By whom was this decided?
  • What were the reasons for this decision?

 

One of the major problems within the provincial Department of Health is the appointment of cadres to the positions of hospital CEOs.  This contributes to the politicisation of the public health services in the province.

 

Free State hospitals used to be the best in the country and doctors felt privileged if they could find work in these institutions.

 

Why are our doctors now leaving the public service and why is it so difficult to find doctors that we must recruit them from Cuba?

 

During my visits doctors and nursing staff I spoke to complained about the circumstances under which they have to give medical treatment to the residents of our province. 

 

Dilapidated buildings, no hot water, constant shortages of consumables, shortages of basic medication, like antibiotics, deteriorating or outdated equipment, doctors don’t get promoted after training and serving the required time in government and no grade increases are given to Medical Officers, and the list goes on.

 

The gross mismanagement by MEC Malakoane contributes directly to the medical brain drain from the province, yet the Premier and the MEC blame medical professionals of having agendas and conspiracies seeking to undermine the provincial government.

 

It is in fact the provincial government that undermines the abilities of medical professionals to execute their tasks appropriately.

 

Is this the Cuban way?

 

Perhaps Premier Ace Magashule should recruit his next MEC for Health from Cuba.

 

Honourable Speaker

 

On my recent visit to Pelonomi, I had a complaint from a young woman who was in a car accident and had severe injuries.  The only pain medication she received was Panado.  I queried the nursing staff and was informed that it is all that was available. 

 

These are not stories that I imagine due to the psychosis the Honourable Malakoane diagnosed me with last year. These are cold hard facts that I see on a daily basis.

 

The supposed turnaround strategy tabled by MEC Malakoane has not yielded any positive results.

 

We maintain that it was merely an attempt to ‘keep-the-lights-on’ reworking of the budget.  It failed to address critical staff shortages, medicine and equipment shortages or the improvement of morale and I am still waiting to receive the promised turnaround strategy from the Department of Finance.

 

Both Premier Magashule and MEC Malakoane celebrate the appointment of doctors, nurses and specialists during the last financial year, but they fail to tell us exactly how many of these have since left the department’s employment.

 

In the Honourable Malakoane’s reply after these debates on Health, he can, like last year, use his entire allocated time, to the amusement of ANC members and the disgust of the public, to attack me personally, or he can admit that there is a serious problem in the Department of Health and explain to the people of this province what he is doing to ensure the turnaround of this critical department.

 

I will end my debate with the same words I did last year:

 

The DA believes that a caring government must ensure that accessible, affordable, high quality health care is available to every South African.

 

After all, Section 27(1) and (3) of the South African Constitution reads “Everyone has the right to have access to health care services, including reproductive health care; No one may be refused emergency medical treatment.”

 

The people of this province deserve better. Where the DA govern, we care for the wellbeing of all.