Doctors working in the Free State public health system have written a devastating indictment of MEC for Health Benny Malakoane as well as Premier Ace Magashule. According to a Groundup report, they describe how through a combination of ineptitude, corruption and neglect the Free State Health system has been brought close to collapse.
They are quoted as saying: “We are not in a position to verify many of the claims made by these whistleblowers. We have decided to publish their account because the allegations they make are for the most part within their direct experience. Furthermore, the doctors allege that patients are dying because of the way the health department is being run. It is therefore of considerable public interest to publish this.”
Before publishing these claims, GroundUp sent a list of questions to the Free State Department of Health and the office of Premier Ace Magashule. In their response the premier’s office said: “Premier Magashule is doing everything possible to provide the necessary leadership to get the Department of Health out of the woods that it found itself in because of the financial constraints, scarcity of skills, the increased demands on health services, racial attitudes, dealing with insecurities of personnel, victimisation of various categories of staff and the general ineptitude of some professionals who are clearly not committed at times to sustaining non-racial provision of health services.
“The Premier is not micro-managing the department and has placed the necessary competent people to manage the department. Dr Malakoane is the MEC of Health, and we know that since his coming to the department there has been a deliberate campaign to undermine his leadership by people who regard themselves as untouchables and some of which had established comfort zones and would do anything possible to resist change because it upsets these comfort zones. The Premier has assisted the department with resources and their quest to recruit specialisation to get the department functioning optimally.
“The highly publicised financial constraints at health date back from 2007/2008 financial year as per the diagnosis that was done by Dr Malakoane. Amongst other challenges the department and the Free State has not been getting the right kinds of allocations as per the national formula of the equitable share.
“As GroundUp publicises the demands of the internal pressure groups of which some, whilst genuine at times are mainly politically motivated than service oriented. We have been dealing with cases of people that have mastered the system of ‘it cannot be done, than contributing to better ways of doing it’. The Free State hosted an inclusive Health Indaba last year in September and the department has kept the Executive Council abreast of the improvements that have been effected. These and more will be further elaborated upon during the Budget Vote Speech of the MEC of Health. The province is currently undergoing a thorough process of Budget reviews and allocations. The department has been receiving provincial support through a self-imposed administration as part of ensuring that we reach our provincial targets of improvement to service delivery. A financial turnaround was effected to improve service delivery. The province is grappling with expanding demands for services whilst there are no corresponding national and provincial financial and resource support. The economic situation is not in our favour either.
“At the right time the province will report to its client base at institutional level, provincial citizens and the national space on what it has done to improve services. We take note of the issues that you have raised in your enquiry and are looking into them. We are aware that some of them are gross exaggeration aimed at embarrassing the province and some qualify to be deliberate orchestrations with intention to embarrass the Premier and the good work that the Province is doing to reverse the legacy of the past, which concentrated good services to the access and benefit of the few, whilst the majority and many unaccounted deaths were normal and went unrecorded…”
There has, meanwhile, been widespread condemnation of a march against the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) organised by the ANC Youth League and others in the Free State, reports Health-e. The Civil Society Forum of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), the United Front, Social Justice Coalition (SJC), Equal Education and Ndifuna Ukwazi issued statements condemning the march, which called for the TAC to be de-registered as a non-governmental organisation because it was engaged it political activities.
Members of the ANCYL, ANC Women’s League, National Association of People Living with HIV/Aids and the Men’s Sector of the Provincial AIDS Council recently marched to the provincial offices of the TAC in Bloemfontein.
The TAC has been campaigning for the dismissal of Free State Health MEC Benny Malakoane following numerous problems with health service delivery as well as the arrest of 117 community health workers. SANAC’s Civil Society Forum strongly condemned the march, and its chair Steve Letsike said “What the ANCYL and WL are doing in the Free State is to silence civil society organisation, and this will not be tolerated by civil society sector. We should be able to hold each other accountable, who said it’s a comfortable space? Let us build a tolerant and accountable governance that should not intimidate each other”
The SJC, Equal Education and Ndifuna Ukwazi said they would “strongly defend the right of social movements, community organisations, civil society and NGOs to organise in the public interest issues in a manner that is within the framework of our law and to do so without interference and gate-keeping”. And the United Front described the march “a deliberate political act to deflect attention away from the demands of the TAC, community health workers and other health stakeholders in the Free State for the provision of a high quality, affordable and efficient public health service”.