Speech notes by Celeste Barker MPL: Debate on State of the Province Address, 28 February 2018

Our health system is falling apart

Honourable Premier, Madam Speaker, colleagues and guests, I greet you all and wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018.

Ladies and gentlemen, health matters to each of us no matter who we are and where we live.

Our Provincial Department of Health has an obligation to all its patients, service providers and staff, to keep us healthy and well.

In his 2015 State of the Province Address, the Premier commented that low economic growth had decreased state revenue and that it meant that we would have to do more with less and manage our resources more efficiently.

He continued to say that the province would establish a preventative health care system run by the Eastern Cape Department of Health that would work towards the realisation of free medical care and hospitalisation for all with special care for mothers and young children.

Ironically, this promise has been undermined by service delivery failures and so our gynae patients who are close to their delivery dates continue to flock to the DA-led Western Cape for the delivery of their babies because the infant mortality rate in the Western Cape is lower than that of this province.

What has come to fruition in the Eastern Cape are heart-rending statistics that identify the Alfred Nzo District, which is the pilot site for the National Health Insurance Scheme, records amongst the highest baby deaths in our province!

During the recent Christmas period our radiation machine packed up, and while some cancer patients were sent to a private facility, others were not. What a horrid heartache for their families!

The DA looks forward to receiving a full report on this tragedy and to receiving an additional report on how much it cost the department and when a radiation machine will be in working order in our province because patients are dying for treatment.

The Department of Health currently has 7 000 vacancies 3000 of which are for vital nursing positions. The Eastern Cape Department of Health must, therefore, finalise its organogram and turn it into a life-saving reality with immediate effect. We cannot continue to bleed money, lives or staff and we simply cannot sustain this department without dedicated, honest, teamwork and absolute determination to plan and serve.

Failure to plan is planning to fail!

In addition to these service delivery issues, provincial health facilities are under-staffed and overworked. It has become a norm for a CEO or Facility Manager to have to run an understaffed clinic by doing double duty because substitute staff are not placed in temporary vacancies when full-time staff are on leave.

The DA is firmly of the opinion that the best method to reduce the cost implication of medico-legal claims in the province is to increase the staff complement on the ground in all our facilities. This should include nurses at all levels, cleaners, general assistants, laundry staff, porters, maintenance staff and clinical staff.

In conclusion, I describe some of the seriously, grave service delivery failures that affect the lives of our patients today, tomorrow and until who knows when.

The first of these issues- is the lack of functional radiation machines in the province – this is common in our province and in KZN.

This shortage of life-saving cancer equipment in our province is a crisis that will generate negative publicity for the department and the province. At this moment, a group of concerned people are working on a submission to the South African Human Rights Commission. This is indeed a sad exposure of failure and a monstrous but preventable tragedy for the families who have lost loved ones because of it.

Ladies and Gentlemen the Eastern Cape Department of Health is failing to meet your needs and the needs of this province.

For example yesterday a group of frustrated patients blocked the entrance to the NU 11 clinic in Motherwell. Included in their grievances was a complaint that approximately 100 patients are turned away from the clinic on a daily basis, that nurses cannot cope because they are short-staffed and even worse, queuing patients risk losing their jobs because of the lengthy waiting times and long queues at the clinic. The sorry outcome is that employed patients are forced to choose between health service and their jobs.

From the Premier’s 2015 SOPA to his most recent SOPA in 2018, it would appear that things have gotten worse because of the severe financial constraints in our economy and the cost implication of litigation over the last three years to fight medico-legal claims.

While there has been some movement made to fulfil the promises of 2015 the department remains bereft of a functional, costed organogram and so, while it would be very exciting to meet these promises, it is highly unlikely to happen given the department’s record of delivery over the last four years. We simply do not have the funds.

So effectively, our Department of Health is contributing to the burden of suffering and disease in the Eastern Cape instead of taking action to reduce it.

Shame on you!

Our health system is falling apart.