Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba has summoned hospital bosses to a meeting in East London to figure out how to improve the services provided by state facilities, reports Business Day. The Eastern Cape Health Department faces a high number of medical negligence claims and in 2017/2018 paid out more R876.7m to successful claimants, or 32% of the national total.
The report says meeting is a direct result of Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s meeting with health MECs ahead of the ninth SA Aids conference in Durban two weeks ago. “He requested that MECs drastically improve the quality of care in our institutions, in hospitals and clinics,” said his spokesperson, Popo Maja. “He appealed to MECs to do their utmost within the available human resource constraints,” he said.
The Eastern Cape Health department’s spokesperson, Sizwe Kupelo, is quoted in the report as saying that Gomba and the hospital CEOs would be discussing staff shortages, staff attitudes to patients, and the cleanliness of facilities. “The critical meeting with the hospital bosses is meant to come up with tangible and feasible solutions to how the province can turn (around) the state of public health care,” he said.
“While the department has been filling vacancies, there is still a serious need for more staff. Without doctors, nurses, cleaners, porters, general workers and other staffers, our health system would be crippled,” he said.
The MEC has made several unannounced hospital visits in Maclear, Mthatha and East London to gauge how hospitals are being managed and whether patients are fairly and professionally treated, said Kupelo. “Her findings and proposed plan of action will be shared at the session tomorrow,” he said.
The report says President Cyril Ramaphosa placed health care high on the agenda during his State of the Nation address last week, naming it as one of the seven key areas that the government would focus on during the next five years. “We must attend to the capacity of our hospitals and clinics. An 80-year-old grandmother cannot spend an entire day in a queue waiting for her medication. An ill patient cannot be turned away because there is a shortage of doctors and nurses … A woman in labour cannot have her unborn child’s life put in danger because the ambulance has taken too long to come,” he said in his speech.
Jane Cowley, shadow MEC for health in the Eastern Cape writes that transport woes are depriving patients of medical care and medication.
Cowley writes: “The situation at the Butterworth Hospital, where many sick and elderly patients wait for a full day, and in some cases even spending the night, for medical attention is testament to the fact that free health care in the Eastern Cape is a myth.
“I recently conducted an oversight inspection at the hospital and found that many of the patients spend the night in the outpatients department (OPD) are not waiting to be attended to at the Butterworth Hospital. Instead, they are waiting to be transferred to provincial hospitals such as the Frere or Cecilia Makiwane Hospital in East London.
These patients have had to travel long distances from rural villages via taxis, which are unpredictable at best. Very often they reach Butterworth Hospital after the patient transfer vehicle has already left for East London. They have paid upwards of R50 to reach town and simply cannot afford to travel back home and repeat the process the following day. These patients then spend the night in a chair or even on the floor in the hospital, waiting for the next transfer vehicle.
“In most other cases, rural clinics have had to refer patients to the Butterworth Hospital because they do not have the required medication in stock. This is not because they have failed to order the medications, but because they depend on the disastrous Mthatha Medicine Depot to supply the medication.
“This depot is a disgrace, but no action is taken against the totally incompetent managers. The fact that rural and urban clinics cannot access the medication they require from this facility in order to serve patients adequately, is an indictment on the depot and on the Eastern Cape Health Department.
“Sick and the elderly patients are then forced to pay taxi fare to Butterworth Hospital, which is able to order medication directly from suppliers and does not have to deal with the Mthatha depot. The round trip from nearby clinics such as Gwadana is in excess of R100. This flies in the face of so called free medical services and affects the indigent most severely. The understanding is that medication should follow the patient and not the other way around.
I have written to the MEC for Health, Sindiswa Gomba, to request a full report on the status of the Mthatha Medical Depot. I have also asked that the Department of Health consider launching a rural patient transfer system such as the one in the Western Cape, which successfully transfers 150,000 patients per annum.”Business Day report