Gauteng Premier David Makhura has said the Cabinet’s Provincial Executive Committee was having a meeting this week to discuss a report on the state of public hospitals, and he would then respond to the demands from hundreds of health professionals in an open letter published a week ago.
Since Maverick Citizen published the Open Letter to the Minister of Health and Gauteng Premier two weeks ago, what has become known as the “I am movement” has grown in numbers and determination.
The letter was written in solidarity with Dr Tim De Maayer, whose own open letter about the dire conditions at Rahima Moosa Mother & Child Hospital earned him the support of many – and a suspension from work. The resulting outcry saw him being reinstated, but there were reports of ongoing victimisation at work, which provoked another groundswell of support.
An online petition that was set up so that more health professionals could add their names to the list has garnered more than 3,500 signatures.
Those who initiated the “I am” letter include specialists like Dr Rudo Mathivha, the head of the Intensive Care Unit at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital. Mathihva has spoken out passionately about the lamentable conditions at her hospital. In addition, doctors in other provinces, such as the Eastern Cape, have put their names down, wanting to be associated with the movement.
Every day, a WhatsApp group that includes more than 200 senior health professionals as well as the minister, DG, premier and other senior government officials, is ablaze with stories of state failure in managing the public health system. It also floats many constructive ideas on concrete solutions that could help fix it.
Maverick Citizen contacted the Minister of Health and Gauteng’s Premier, to whom the letter is addressed, for their responses.
Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla is out of the country. However, his spokesperson, Foster Mohale, said: “The National Health Department noted an open letter penned and endorsed … health experts on the challenges facing the public health system, including the incident involving a doctor who was suspended and later reinstated by the Gauteng Provincial Health Department.
“We welcome any form of feedback from stakeholders whose intention is to alert us about challenges and red flags which could be addressed.”
Last Monday (27 June), Gauteng Premier David Makhura told Maverick Citizen he would “gladly welcome a meeting with clinicians”, adding that social justice organisation SECTION27 had made “useful proposals on the reform of the public health system, with the emphasis on decentralisation and devolution.
Dr Aslam Dasoo, the convener of the Progressive Health Forum and one of the letter’s signatories, stated:
“If the Premier cannot, first, accept the self-evident fact that the Gauteng Department of Health cannot fix the problem and, second, be willing to have an open discussion with the signatories, the protest will simply grow.
“The Rahima Moosa Hospital is a proxy for all the other facilities in Gauteng and nationally. An inquiry of this nature will reveal the cause and nature of the dysfunction and point the way to a smart strategy for the rehabilitation and sustainability of the service.”
The continuing war of words over the quality of healthcare takes place in the context of the recently signed Memorandum of Agreement between Wits University and Gauteng DoH on Gauteng’s health system.
Several weeks ago, Wits vice-chancellor Professor Zeblon Vilakazi said he hoped the MOA “….will ensure better collaboration and communication between the various entities. However, these agreements are only useful if they are properly implemented, which is where we need to be vigilant”.
Meanwhile, at Rahima Moosa, the CEO is reported to have been on sick leave since the suspension and subsequent reinstatement of Dr Tim De Maayer over an open letter of his own.
It is not clear yet what actual steps – if any – have been taken to address the issues in Maayer’s original letter.
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