The health of our government determines the health of our people

By Dr Imran Keeka, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Health:

Oversight by members of the KZN Legislature, over the provincial executive, is performed to protect the systems and machinery of our democracy from the abuse of power, enabling citizens to live freely, in an environment where opportunity flourishes, under a government which is fair.

When someone decides that members of this House need permission to perform their oversight duty, they interfere with the clear separation of powers granted by constitutional provisions.  Our protest against such a threat must be pronounced and must be outright.

Since the MEC has recommended these health oversight visits, the DA accepts that it is done with the understanding of the oversight role and that no one in this House, for whatever reason in the future, is denied this lawful privilege.

Healthcare facilities are only as good as the ingredients – in particular the human ingredient – manpower.  Infrastructure and machines mean nothing without those trained to be there.

Our facilities are able to expose failures.  If we do not work hard to remedy them and instead gloss over them and fail to interrogate them, we will never achieve true freedom or a fair government and we certainly will not have widespread opportunities.

When a health oversight visit reveals an almost 400% increase in malnutrition we need to focus on addressing the cause and not only on managing the symptoms.

The same applies when we learn that most deaths are due to diarrhoeal disease, again as a result of malnutrition.

This information tells us that people are unemployed, that they are starving, that they feed themselves first and their children last.  It also tells us that the hospital and healthcare interventions alone will not end this and that the story is very bad.

The common thread here is not just the health of our people – it is the health of our government.

To illustrate further, in one hospital there is an ultrasound machine, but no one trained to operate it.  In another there are doctors but no X-Ray machine. In both these facilities it is the patients that suffer.

When there are no CTG’s, when operations are performed by torch light, when an entire hospital block is without electricity for 10 days and patients must provide their own candles, then the lack of human resources and trained personnel becomes acutely bare.  It also tells us that incompetent comrades are getting paid even when they can’t do the job at hand.

It is precisely this reason that R38 million was spent on forensic investigations involving SCM and HR amongst others.  This is money that could have been better spent on medicines, services and electricity instead.

So while hospitals can work without CTG’s for example, mothers and babies will continue to die in higher than usual numbers.  The MEC admitted to the media, after this week’s HPC meeting that we could do better in this area.  Read between the lines – again what good are machines if we do not have the nurses and doctors trained to use them?

The department has a massive litigation bill and one of the reasons for this is that our personnel are burnt out.  While studies are available, common sense will tell us that they will eventually make mistakes.  Then there is the issue of ghost employees which needs to be discussed urgently.

In terms of vacancies, if we look at nurses across disciplines, there are 3 546 vacancies.  Around 50% of these posts [1 745] have been advertised with the department receiving almost 1 300% more applicants than the number advertised.

The MEC has more than once queried where I got my figures from.  They are from a parliamentary reply that he signed.  It is the MEC who told the DA that there are some 10 000 posts available.

In 2009 when the ANC left the Western Cape, the vacancy rate for nurses was 34%.  The DA has since reduced it to 1%.  This is how the human ingredient improves lives and provides excellent healthcare delivery.

Not only that, while KZN grapples with medicine and personnel shortages, in the Western Cape MTC transmission of HIV was reduced to 1.8% –  the lowest in the country.

If we fill our buildings with tools, fit generators and build roads but don’t provide for the 9783 critical jobs then the poorest of people will remain casualties of a government who do not believe in our freedom, where unfairness will prevail and widespread opportunities will cease.