Speech notes by DA MPL, Celeste Barker – ECPL Health portfolio’s oversight visit to Grey and All Saints Hospitals

Honourable Premier, Madam Speaker/Deputy Speaker/ Colleagues and Guests.

The Democratic Alliance welcomes this opportunity to explore and discuss service delivery and conditions at the Grey and All Saints Hospitals.

Let it first be said that Health services are fundamental for survival. It is trite but true that not one of us – or those whom we hold dear – can survive a health crisis without reliable medical care in hygienic, clean facilities with sufficient staff, equipment, material and human resources to monitor, treat and care for in hospital patients.

This is no throw away statement. It is evident throughout the province that some health facilities provide a better service than others and that in extreme cases, the public health system in the Eastern Cape is life threatening!

Before my honourable colleagues shoot me down for what may seem to be an exaggeration let me tell you a true story that illustrates my point.

On Tuesday, 18 August 2015 just around the corner from our Legislature, a 31 year old women died on the grounds of the Ndende Clinic in Duncan Village. Literally just around the corner.

Tandazwa Mbalo died completely unnecessarily. She had Asthma and what happened to her and her mother, Ntombizabantu Mbala, is a symptom of a sick system that blows hot and cold. Some health facilities provide great services and others abuse and/or neglect their patients.

This is the tragic tale of Tandazwa’s unnecessary death as told by her bereaved mother, Ms Ntombizabantu Mbalo.

Mrs Mbalo took Tandazwa to the Ndende Clinic on the afternoon of 18 August because Tandazwa needed medical care for Asthma.

On their arrival just before 4 pm at the Ndende Clinic nurses did not rush to assist the Mbalo’s. Instead they told Mrs Mbalo that the clinic was closing and verbally abused her for bringing her daughter to the clinic for a “small problem” like Asthma. Official closing time at clinics is 16:30 and not 16:00. So the Mbalo’s had every right to expect service. Tandazwa was given an oxygen mask, an injection and 6 tablets. The Mbalo’s were sent packing and told to go home. No opportunity for assessment of the treatment or a check up to see whether the medication had indeed helped her to breathe and alleviated her symptoms.

What happened next violates medical ethics and the public service maxim of service before self.

Tandazwa’s condition deteriorated. Her mom encouraged her to get up and walk but she couldn’t – there simply was not enough oxygen in her lungs and she was too weak.

What happened next is mind blowing! Mrs Mbalo put Tandazwa into a wheelchair and was then instructed to remove Tandazwa from the wheelchair and to carry her on her back.

Mrs Balo was tired so she stopped at the clinic gate where she was instructed to leave the premises as it was time to lock the gate.

Nursing staff left and Tandazwa died on the clinic grounds before the last nurse’s car left the clinic premises.

This horror story violates the principle of Batho Pele, the practice of Ubuntu and medical ethics.

The good news is that we, the public representatives appointed to serve the people of the Eastern Cape have the resources and power to “be the change that we want to see in the world” because we can conduct oversight, document our findings, make recommendations and follow up to monitor the implementation of our recommendations.

Tragedies like Tandazwa’s death are completely preventable.

Hence the Health Portfolio Committee report on unannounced oversight visits to the Grey and All Saints Hospitals is a very valuable tool because it aims to secure information about the conditions and challenges in health facilities as well as to check standards of service and to solve problems by making findings and recommendations and reporting to this house.

15 Findings at the Grey Hospital illustrate that the reopening of maternity facilities was mismanaged and that poor planning and assessment was responsible for the resignation of seven doctors from the hospital and a situation which left the Grey Hospital short of doctors dependant on one doctor daily and three community service doctors who need supervision, and cannot work without supervision.

Additional risk factors include inadequate consultation and communication, no food budget for the maternity ward, patient malnutrition, staff shortages, problems with the out patients department unfilled vacancies because of natural attrition, an understaffed mortuary, poor maintenance and challenges with X rays.

This is a desperate tale of woe!

The All Saints Hospital lacks staff; staff accommodation and staff turnover is high. Centralised procurement processes delay payments, acquisitions and the supply of vital medical equipment and meal delivery is a challenge because meals must be carried from one building to the next.

I thank you.