Study needed to determine available & required resources to address scarce skills shortages

The DA is worried that the fight against TB in the Northern Cape is being adversely affected by the Northern Cape Health Department’s inability to recruit and retain nurses to work in this field.

The TB tracer team project, which is an initiative aimed at reducing the TB defaulter rate by tracing early treatment interrupters and treatment defaulters, has seen an exodus of staff to other lucrative posts. In fact, according to the department’s first quarter performance report, at least nine professional nurses resigned from the project between April and June this year, creating a high vacancy rate on the team.

As a direct result of this, the province has not been able to meet its target of sufficiently improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the TB control programme.

This is very worrying.

TB remains one of the drivers of morbidity and mortality in the Northern Cape. According to statistics SA, TB was the second highest cause of death in the Northern Cape in 2013, having caused 7,7% or 1061 of all deaths in the province in 2013.

The situation requires urgent intervention. Refusal of patients to take TB treatment poses a major challenge for the program as it negatively affects programe performance. Patients who default on TB treatment run the risk of developing drug resistant TB.

While the department indicated that it would accelerate the process for the replacement posts as well as filling of teams in ZF Mgcawu, since it never had operational teams, the department has conceded that this might be challenging due to the remuneration package that is behind most resignations.

The DA is of the view that the fundamental problem is that financial resources have been so mismanaged at provincial level that there is nothing left for employing nurses and doctors.

We have today written to Health MEC Mac Jack requesting that a study be conducted to determine not only the nature and scale of vacancies in public health in the Northern Cape, but also very importantly the available and required resources to address them.

Health professionals are the backbone of the health system and much more must be done to retain them in the Northern Cape.