FS Health Crisis: 177 doctors leave public hospitals in one year – DA calls on SAHRC to release report

By Mariette Pittaway, DA MPL in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

In one year the Free State Provincial Department of Health under MEC Benny Malakoane has lost 177 medical doctors and 28 medical specialists. The department had 716 medical doctors on its payroll in 2014 compared to 539 in the current year.

The loss of a quarter of doctors by the department in one year is of serious concern. It is, in fact, a crisis.

This was revealed in the peer reviewed annual South African Health Review 2014/15 published by the Health Systems Trust.

The DA has long maintained that the politicisation of the public health system in the Free State through ANC cadre deployment, coupled with the arrogant and reckless leadership of MEC Benny Malakoane, have created a hostile work environment for medical professionals employed at public hospitals.

The department’s inability to ensure the steady and constant supply of medicine, medical consumables and medical equipment contributes heavily towards the dissatisfaction suffered by medical professionals in the public service. It is only natural that medical professionals would rather seek employment elsewhere in an environment that is fully conducive to the delivery of effective and quality healthcare.

MEC Malakoane has been on record accusing medical professionals who dare to speak out or make recommendations of how to improve overall performance in the public health sector in the province of racism or having political agendas against his leadership. This reckless and arrogant attitude towards medical professionals could be one of the reasons contributing to their mass exodus. The ANC remains always at the ready to invent agendas and conspiracies against them to cover up the failures of its cadres.

In all of this it is the health and socio-economic status of patients dependent on public health services that are negatively affected due to long hospital stays, long waiting periods for surgery, the increased prevalence of secondary infections and regular medicine stock-outs. The suffering of patients are further exacerbated by the shortage of medical doctors and specialists.

That Benny Malakoane remains the MEC for Health in the province year after year while public health continues to deteriorate remains a complete mystery. Premier Magashule shares the blame of this deplorable situation. Both couldn’t care less about the health of the people of the Free State.

The DA wrote to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to investigate the department in June 2014. Almost a year and a half later the HRC is yet to make its report public despite reports quoting the Acting Manager, Mr Buang Jones, repeatedly in the free media since July this year that its release is imminent.

I have written to the National Chairperson of the SAHRC, Adv. Lawrence Mushwana, the Deputy Chairperson, Pregaluxmi Govender, and the Free State Acting Provincial Manager, Mr Buang Jones, expressing our concern at the lengthy delay of the release of the report following the SAHRC investigations into the Free State Department of Health. I have requested the commissioners to furnish us with the reasons for the delay and to commit to an acceptable timeline within which the report will be made public. I have also submitted to them all the relevant documentation.

The DA remains resolute to do whatever it can and to pursue any avenues available to it at its disposal to fight for equitable, accessible and quality public healthcare for all those in the Free State who need it.