Speech by Mr J C Cupido: Debate on State of the Province Address – Tuesday, 26 February 2013:
I echo the sentiments [of this House] in congratulating the [Southern] Kings on their win and hope that they will take rugby further in this province and make us proud.
My question is, what is Sopa? As we in this House know, Sopa is the State of the Province Address. The Premier of the province, the highest level of accountability in the Eastern Cape, explains the current state of affairs in our province, accounts for the condition our province is in and explains what steps should be taken to correct the wrongs.
It is exceptionally disheartening to note that when it comes to the state of healthcare in the province, the Premier chose to completely ignore the real and most pertinent issues affecting the people of the Eastern Cape. The Premier mentioned several hospitals that will be upgraded this coming year. The reality is that most, if not all of those medical facilities, have been listed for renovations and upgrades for years. Most of these renovations and upgrades, if they take place, will only bring these facilities up to hopefully a minimum standard of healthcare. We are not yet moving forward in this province.
The healthcare infrastructure backlog in the Eastern Cape stands at well over R22 billion, and each year it falls even further behind by at least R800 million. The Premier also failed to mention the significantly high vacancy rate in respect of essential clinical staff in the province, a vacancy rate which in real terms most likely stands at over 50%. The MEC and the ANC will challenge this on paper. The organograms do not show the full number of current vacancies, but when you visit clinics and hospitals on the ground you discover that vacancies in clinics, hospitals and on the pharmaceutical database have been removed from the organogram to look better on paper.
The Premier stated in her speech that steps have been taken against corruption in the Department of Health and that some arrests have been made. There is a draft SIU report that has been in circulation for quite some time. The MEC is aware of its findings, so when the final report was published, the MEC should have been ready to take action against the officials and on the findings made, yet to this date nothing has been done.
This report needs to be tabled at a meeting of the Health Portfolio Committee. What is the MEC hiding?
Is the MEC and the Premier hiding the fact that the department has more than 500 ghost employees earning salaries or almost 1 000 employees who are listed as suppliers to the department? Thousands of departmental employees are defrauding the people of this province, stealing valuable money that is needed to hire more doctors and nurses, fix existing clinics and hospitals in the province and more importantly, ensure that they are well stocked with medication, medication that saves lives. Without this, we cannot provide a proper healthcare service to the people of this province.
Let us not fool ourselves. The members of this House are literally playing with the lives of people. When we visit hospitals, doctors tell us that due the vacancies and the lack of medication at hospitals and clinics, people are literally dying. We have heard that doctors are avoiding patients because they do not want to tell the patients that there is nothing they can do for them as there is not enough staff. That is why doctors are leaving this province. It is not because they are not getting paid. Being a doctor, just like a being a teacher, is a calling. They are there because they want to serve people. Many of them do it for a long time without being paid, but they cannot help people and we need to change that.
So Madam Premier, please tell your Cabinet and the ANC members of this House that the electorate conference is now over, and that you do not need to be afraid of the officials anymore.
We need to take the officials to task and make sure that this department is clean and runs properly. We cannot afford to waste billions of Rands that could save people in the deepest rural and poorest parts of the province and allow them to die because we are doing nothing about it, by allowing officials to go about their own business.