Health crisis horrors

10 July 2015 - 02:03 By Ufrieda Ho

Fathers cradling dying children while hospital staff are "too busy to administer oxygen", mothers giving birth to dead babies and people told to use wheelbarrows to get to hospital. These were among the testimonies at the first People's Commission of Inquiry into the Free State health crisis, held in Bloemfontein this week.The commission's work is intended to give a voice to people such as Vele Gadebe, from Harrismith. His pregnant daughter died after receiving little help at the Thebe Hospital in the province.Betty Mabuza, of Welkom, gave birth to a dead baby.The foetus had died a month before full term but no one at the Tsepeng Clinic had discovered this, even though Mabuza had complained of pains during visits to the clinic.She had to go through the trauma of delivering a dead child.Odendaalsrust resident Ellen Magawuza, who is asthmatic and suffers from epilepsy, testified that she was told to use a wheelbarrow to get to hospital instead of complaining about ambulances that never arrive.The commission was facilitated by the Treatment Action Campaign. The organisation's general secretary, Anele Yawa, said: "We have organised this initiative but the People's Commission is not owned by the TAC."The Free State health department has reportedly racked up R700-million in debt and health MEC Benny Malokoane still faces fraud and corruption charges, along with seven co-accused, one of whom is the MEC for sports, arts, culture and recreation, Mathabo Leeto."It's called the Free State but the province is not free. It is full of corruption and intimidation," said Yawa.He was referring to a disruption on the first day of the People's Commission when a heckler disrupted testimony, accusing the TAC of having a political agenda.This was followed by a walkout by a delegation from the department of health. The delegates did not return, saying they felt threatened.Malokoane attacked the commission even before it started its hearings. He ignored requests for comment.

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