Health report brings tears to judge's eyes

12 September 2013 - 03:25
File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock File photo.

Death. That is the stark reality that patients who enter the Eastern Cape healthcare system face.

Who is to blame?

Sicelo Gobana, the MEC for health, according Mark Heywood, executive director of non-governmental organisation Section 27.

Heywood held up a photograph of Gobana at a press conference in Johannesburg yesterday, sayingthe MEC needed to answer for much of the chaos in the system.

Heywood said the collapse of the healthcare system in the Eastern Cape was one failure that had been "permitted by a succession of politicians at a provincial and national level".

Fed up with a dysfunctional system, a group of doctors, nurses, activists and union members have formed the Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Coalition.

Their report, Death and Dying in The Eastern Cape, details the human tragedy that followed the collapse of the system.

The stories include pregnant women being denied treatment and caesarian sections, a lack of ambulances, 17 hospitals without water, 68% of hospitals without essential equipment and a vacancy rate of 46%.

Yet, there is a six-month wait for doctors to be appointed in the severely short-staffed hospitals and another three to pay them.

Former Eastern Cape health MEC Dr Trudy Thomas said in the report: "Over the past 15 years, I have witnessed the progressive deterioration of the province's health department.

"A totally unpredictable twist in the progress of the health services in Eastern Cape is that, except for the Transkei, the services had been good to excellent pre-1994.

"They have spectacularly crashed under the ANC regime," Thomas said.

The coalition said it had tried on numerous occasions to meet Gobana to discuss the crisis since December but he had allegedly either cancelled or postponed.

Another member of the coalition, former Constitutional Court judge Zak Yacoob, praised Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi for meeting the team three days after receiving the report.

Yacoob said he had read affidavits of more than 50 healthcare workers in the province that "brought tears to my eyes".

The coalition has made a number of proposals to arrest the crisis. These include the improvement of facilities, implementation of a proper supply chain management system to ensure a constant supply of chronic medication and speeding up of the appointment of doctors and nurses.

The activists admitted that the provincial healthcare system was under-funded but added that the Treasury would not pump more money into the department unless systemic corruption had been brought to a halt

Gobana has been given until October 11 to respond to the coalition's call for a detailed plan to end the crisis.

Health Ministry spokesman Joe Maila said Motsoaledi had already dispatched a team to the Eastern Cape to investigate.

Maila said: "People must be held accountable."