New National Health ombudsman is in for a shock

Letter to the Editor,

Dr Imran Keeka, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health:

THE announcement, by South Africa’s Health Minister, of the establishment of a national ombudsman is welcomed by the DA in KwaZulu-Natal.  One can only hope the new incumbent will be up to the job – if KZN’s ombudsman is anything to go bye, then we’re in for trouble.

Despite referring several serious matters to this office for investigation last year, the DA has not had one response despite assurances to the KZN Health portfolio committee that the turnaround time for any probe is 25 days.

We understand that some issues take longer to investigate.  But complainants should at least get a progress report when weeks turn into months.  Serious complaints relating to Stanger hospital are yet to be finalised almost four months later and we are beginning to doubt the autonomy of this office.

The National ombudsman office must also deal with the massive medico-legal burden, which is increasing daily.  Key to this is addressing the cause, rather than the symptoms, particularly here in KZN where the bill is in the billions and where causes range from political lethargy in dealing with serious criminal and negligent activities, shortage of doctors, nurses, to medicine, infrastructure, security, ambulances and even porters.

There can be no doubt that the new ombudsman is in for a shock.  One can only hope that this new office will not be undermined by handlers and that it will be allowed to get on with its work.