PINE PIENAAR SPEAKING ON THE 2008/09 ANNUAL REPORT FOR HEALTH

Every now and again, when the circus comes to town, there is always this one clown whose trick is to spin plates on sticks.

He will start off by spinning three plates, going from one to the other to make sure they are spinning fast enough. You see, plate spinning relies on the gyroscopic effect, which dictates that the plates will only stay on top of those sticks as long as they are given enough torque to spin fast enough.

The clown will then add a fourth, a fifth and a sixth plate and eventually end up with twenty or so plates spinning to his audience’s delight, but eventually Hon Speaker, no matter how good this clown is, he will add one too many plates, loose control and before you know it, the plates will

come tumbling down.

In this province we have our very own person spinning plates. It’s none other than our Honourable MEC for Health. He too is spinning plates, trying with a meagre budget and dwindling resources to keep the Department of Health administration afloat. You can just see him and his administrators running around trying to do the impossible.

The sad difference – unfortunately – is not that a few plates will fall onto the circus ring dust as our MEC fails in his task, but that many more lives will be lost and many more people will suffer.

Our portfolio committee on health in its recent study of the Department of Health’s annual report found evidence of a lack of skills to ensure effective management or controls.

We found that budget shortages and capacity challenges were compromising district health to the extent that there was evidence of an influx of patients to district hospitals that could have been treated at a primary healthcare level.

We saw evidence of the continued deterioration of emergency medical services, poor infection control, poor management and above all incredible staff shortages.

Our Health Department are on the point of collapse, grossly under-staffed and lack basics. I realised that we as politicians tend to see reality in reports and in figures with percentages and organograms. We sometimes forget to just open our eyes and look at reality.

It was reflected in the worrying percentages and figures I was studying. I realised that we do not need figures to see how people are suffering because we budget incorrectly and manage poorly; we merely have to open our eyes to see it all around our province.

And no matter how many times we highlight these realities, the ruling party seems to be blind to it. It is easy to tell the masses they will inherit a better life for all if they just cross the right box during the elections and then laze around on the gravy train where your biggest concern is the size of your car allowance. I am quoting the newspaper when I say this government is hell-bent on allowing the country’s public health facilities to deteriorate to levels associated with third world countries.

And I agree with the view that the Eastern Cape in particular is suffering under terminal neglect by a provincial health department led by a series of ineffectual MECs more concerned about the perks of the job than the needs of those they should be serving.

The declining standards in public healthcare have resulted in numerous civil lawsuits against the department lodged by disgruntled patients or the families of patients who have suffered – and often even died – as a result of medical negligence.

This has cost the province tens of millions of rands of money that could have been far better spent looking after the needs of the sick, injured, infirm and desperately poor. Sometimes those responsible for the negligence have been overworked doctors and nurses. But they cannot bear sole responsibility.

It is the circus master and his clowns that should be in the dock. It is the beneficiaries of the gravy that the ANC brought to the winners of the political game that should answer why the plates are falling and the wheels are coming off our ambulances.

It is MEC and his officials who are rolling in the money of their high paid government jobs that should be at the coal face to answer the questions patients are asking.

Because it is you, the politicians, that should answer why the poor die while you allow this province’s public healthcare system to deteriorate.

In our portfolio committee report to consider the financial oversight report of the Department of Health, we found evidence that Emergency Medical Services were grossly understaffed.

Again, this can be proved by looking at percentages of staffing and percentages of expenditure. But while I was looking at these facts and figures, I was once more confronted by the facts on the ground – or should I rather say the facts at grassroots level as my ruling party comrade so often like to

refer to the poor.

The facts are that public ambulance services are suffering its worst crisis since it was brought into existence. We don’t need to study reports to see this. Go to Nelson Mandela Bay and see the under-spending, low staff morale for yourself. If you sit in this house and don’t agree with me, go and speak to ambulance staff members.

If they are honest, they will tell you what it is like to work in an environment where there is staff shortages to deal with the upcoming busy festive season.

Go and speak to the doctors in state hospitals and they will tell you that stretched ambulance service is causing countless fatalities as ambulances arrive hours late. In fact, they often arrive too late to save a life, but they more often don’t arrive at all.

Honourable MEC, take some time out from spinning plates and visit the ambulance depots yourself. Then see if the driver is despatched with a paramedic or not. I can tell you that chances are only one person will arrive.

This – Mr Speaker – is how we are turning this province into a third world state.

While your spokesman is prepared to tell the entire world there is no problem whatsoever,

Heaven knows what will happen during next year’s world cup should we have a crisis Mr Sepaker – the unbroken world record for spinning multiple plates which is verified as a Guinness World Record is held by David Spathaky who spun 108 plates simultaneously in Bangkok, Thailand in 1996. When he stacked up the 109th plate, they all came tumbling down.

I need not warn this House any further, that our MEC for Health is already spinning more plates than he can handle. It is time for all of us, to approach the national government for assistance.

We have only proven one thing thus far, and that is that this provincial government cannot cope

any longer.

For further information contact Pine Pienaar on 082 4461 888