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06 June 2018

Hospersa is disappointed by the response given by the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, regarding the state of public health in the country. The Department of Health (DoH) has been under heavy criticism since the beginning of the year with the Health Ombudsman stating that it is collapsing. However, the Minister has dismissed these claims and maintains that his department is afloat. The Union agrees with the Health Ombudman’s claims and has reiterated calls for a national health indaba in order to find solutions that will resuscitate the collapsing department.

On Sunday, during an interview on ENCA, the Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgobastated that the country’s healthcare system is on the verge of collapse. His claims were based on the many complaints that his office deals with emanating from the poor state of public health in the country. However the Minister [of Health] has dismissed these claims stating that the DoH is distressed and not collapsing.

“We are bemused by why the Minister is failing to see that there is a real crisis in the country’s healthcare system,” said Hospersa Public Relations Officer Kevin Halama. “The collapsing department faces serious challenges which includes deep levels of corruption and maladministration against senior officials, rising medico- legal claims, staff shortages, poor infrastructure and labour unrests. We agree with the Health Ombudsman and would have thought the Minister would act on these claims instead of dismissing them,” added Halama.

“The first contributing factor to the system collapse is the deep levels of corruption and maladministration in the DoH especially at provincial level,” said Halama. “In the North West Province, the Health Head of Department (HOD) is caught up in the mobile-clinics scandal where it is alleged he illegally awarded a multi-million rand contract to a dubious “Gupta-linked” company. The Health HOD has since been suspended and the department has been placed under administration. While we welcome this intervention, it is shocking to note that other officials who had a hand in awarding many dubious contracts in that province have not been investigated and it is business as usual,” argued Halama.

Another contributing factor to the system collapse is the rising cost of medico-legal claims against the DoH. The most recent of these claims is the Life Esidimeni Arbitration whereby affected families of the 144 mentally ill patients that died under the care of the Gauteng DoH are set to be compensated R1.2 million each. It is reported that the Health Ombudsman is currently busy with a similar “Life Esidimeni” case in the Eastern Cape. The Health Ombudsman estimates that the DoH owes over R50 billion medico-legal claims. It is also estimated that the Eastern Cape has the highest number of these claims amounting to over R17 billion.

“The alarming rate of medico-legal claims can be attributed to the DoH’s failure to adequately provide quality health care,” said Halama. “According to the Office of Health Standards Compliance (OHSC) report tabled in parliament on Tuesday, only five (5) of the 696 hospitals and clinics it inspected in 2016-17 complied with the DoH’s norms and standards. Therefore, it will be very difficult to decrease the number of claims against the department when the majority of public health facilities remain heavily under-resourced,” added Halama.

“Leaking ceilings, broken elevators and depleted buildings have become the new face of public health care. Adding to the depleted infrastructure, our members in many public health facilities are forced to work in critically under-staffed workplaces due to a moratorium on the filing of vacant funded posts. This adds even more pressure on the roll out of quality health care services resulting in health workers getting the blame for departmental challenges beyond their control,” argued Halama.

In KwaZulu-Natal, oncology treatment for cancer patients is still compromised due to broken equipment and the fact that there is only one (1) oncology specialist working in the province’s department of health. The situation is just as bad in other provinces whereby it is reported that there is only thirty eight (38) oncology specialists working in the public sector across all provinces. The mass exodus of oncology specialists from the public sector has resulted in Limpopo and Mpumalanga to be left without a single oncology specialist.

The department’s challenges are also exacerbated by increasing acts of labour unrest whereby health workers are now resorting to downing tools to have their demands addressed. Last week, health workers closed the gates at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital voicing out against unpaid performance bonuses. In the North West Province, the provincial DoH is still reeling from a three month long labour unrest which led to many clinics and hospitals closing their doors during the unrest.

“It is very alarming to see health workers abandoning their work stations in order to have their grievances addressed,” said Halama. “The employer’s failure to listen to health workers’ genuine demands has led to innocent patients to bear the brunt by being deprived of medical assistance during these labour unrests,” added Halama.

“We have constantly written to the Minister highlighting these deep concerns with no responses received from his office. It is frightening to watch a system collapse in front of your eyes, especially one as critical as health while clear warning signs are being ignored,” added Halama.

“Hospersa reiterates calls for government to urgently arrange a national health indaba and invite key stakeholders to have genuine discussions about the poor state of service delivery in health. The objective of the indaba should be to map out a way forward in addressing challenges faced by the DoH as well as to propose measures of accountability for officials in key positions, including the Minister,” concluded Halama.


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For interviews please contact Hospersa Public Relations Officer Kevin Halama – 060-546-8166.

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