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3 May 2017


The Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) has accepted an invitation from the South African Medical Association (SAMA) to embark on a march calling for improved working conditions in KwaZulu Natal public health facilities.  The Union has heeded the call for a protest march to create public awareness on the deteriorating public health care in the province and force the Department of Health to address the collapsing system.


On 5 May 2017, Hospersa and SAMA Coastal Branch will embark on a march in Durban Central Business District (CBD) to raise public awareness on the deteriorating state of public health in KwaZulu Natal (KZN).  During the KZN health budget speech, Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo confirmed that the KZN Department of Health (DoH) owes R10,5 billion in outstanding medical claims. Attributed to the high claim rate is the reported freezing of critical posts resulting in doctors having to work long hours.  It is also reported that the DoH in KZN has implemeted a commuted overtime policy which is negatively received by doctors. Gross violations of procurement practices, shortage of medicine, poor working conditions and broken medical equipment have also attributed to the failing system.

“How does the MEC expect a drop in medical negligence when KZN public health facilities are working on skeleton staff and doctors are told to only rest for a couple of hours,” asked Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines.  “We support the doctors’ plea for the filling of critical posts which is affecting service delivery and contributing to the high medicolegal claims.  Doctors are also human and need to be supported with adequate human capacity so they do not burn-out from working long hours with limited resources,” said Desfontaines.

The staff shortage in KZN has hit cancer patients the worst.  It is reported that there is only one oncologist in the whole of Durban and in the South Coast area.  There is also only one urologist in the whole region, with only a single part-time specialist supervising the complicated treatment of more than 400 diabetic children.

“Hospersa has previously called on the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi to urgently address the staff shortage crisis,” said Desfontaines.  “Doctors are working under severe pressure because vacant posts are not being filled while the country has many qualified graduates that are being shunned from employment.  Instead, the public health system is being left to collapse while communities bare the brunt,” added Desfontaines.

Other reports on KZN’s poor state of public health care have made reference to collapsing infrastructure and broken equipment.  This reference is more glaring at Addington Hospital where the radiotherapy machines are still not working resulting in cancer patients being denied treatment. Cancer patients in the province have been left reeling since 2013 when the DoH in the province was reported to have flaunted supply chain processes in the awarding of a R58 million contract for the repairing and maintenance of oncology machines at Addington Hospital.

“Broken and inadequate equipment continue to characterise the DoH where corruption is left unpunished even when the concequences have resulted in the loss of human life,” argued Desfontaines.  “The march will also raise awareness on these reported cases where corruption and maladministration have had a hand. The DoH must be taken to task for compromising service delivery in awarding contracts through corrupt practices,” added Desfontaines. 

“The current state of affairs leaves us questioning how the proposed National Health Insurance will be implemented unless it is just another empty promise like free higher education,” said Desfontaines.  “We will continue to call upon the Minister of Health to address the health crisis experienced in all provinces where staff shortage, corruption, old infrastructure and inadequate equipment remain a thorn in the flesh,” concluded Desfontaines. 



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For interviews please contact Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines on 083-321-4427.


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