On a Youth Day visit to the Paediatric ICU of Frere Hospital in East London I noticed with immediate concern that there was an adult patient with septic wounds accommodated within the same ward.

Babies treated in paediatric ICUs are usually the most vulnerable of all patients to potential incidences of infection, with premature babies the most vulnerable of them all.

Youth Day is a day when we must remember our pledges to protect and take care of the most vulnerable members of society. Children in state hospitals are usually far away from where their families reside and quite often are orphan or abandoned children. They are quite often in medical circles considered the “forgotten children”.

The Eastern Cape Department of Health (DoH) and Frere Hospital has a history of forgetting child patients and how vulnerable they are. Over the last few years, hundreds of babies have died every year because of the overburdened unit and negligence in general. It was reported that Haven Hills cemetery was burying babies in small white coffins in batches of up to 45 babies in pauper’s funerals a month.

When going up to the Paediatric ICU at Frere one can clearly see that an attempt at renovations to the hospital was halted a very long time ago, clearly an instruction handed down after the media heat died down last year.

Of the R15.1 billion budget that the department has for this financial year, a mere R1 billion is budgeted for infrastructure across the Eastern Cape and none of that for Frere Hospital. Making an adjustment within the current budget would not be possible, because the current budget has to be increased by at least R3 billion just to see the current financial year through and ensure we can pay our current doctors and nurses, forget about filling any of the 27 000 medical staff vacancies in the province.

It is imperative that the National Department of Health steps in with extra funding for the provincial department and to ensure that proper operational policies are implemented to make sure that patients are given the best possible treatment under the safest possible conditions.

I will be raising these issues and concerns with the Legislature’s Health Portfolio Committee with the goal of having findings and recommendations that will ensure better quality treatment for patients of Frere Hospital and the Eastern Cape in general.

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