Health matters — Taking Legislature to the People

The annual Taking Legislature to the People is being held in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro (NMBM) from 20-23 October, at the Missionvale Campus of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.  

Below is the speech by DA Shadow MEC for Health, Celeste Barker, on the report by the Portfolio Committee on Health, on site visits to health facilities in the NMBM:

Honourable Premier, Madam Speaker, Colleagues, Esteemed Guests and the VIP’s of participatory democracy, YOU the great  people of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. Molweni nonke. Dit is ‘n voorreg om hier te staan.

My party, The Democratic Alliance, takes health matters seriously. We are therefore deeply grateful for this opportunity to speak and to engage with you.

The DA is proud of South Africa’s constitution, the Bill of Rights and the principles in its Preamble. We support a rights-based approach to state healthcare in the Eastern Cape in the firm belief that each of you is entitled to quality healthcare in safe, hygienic, caring facilities.

We stand for your right to fair treatment and freedom of choice no matter who you are or where you come from. We defend your right to equal treatment regardless of the circumstances of your birth, your sex or your religious affiliation.

The hospital in which you were born, the clinic that weighed and immunised your baby, the ambulance your neighbour calls when her child has Asthma,   the mobile clinic that checks your granny’s blood pressure and your uncle’s sugar levels are yours. They belong to us, they exist to serve and to keep you well because South Africa is a constitutional democracy in which health matters.

Our government is vital to Healthcare because it holds the purse strings and the power to allocate funds, staff and resources to state hospitals and clinics. We monitor the hospitals and clinics of our province and the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro (NMBM) to protect your right to decent healthcare and to ensure that our facilities are staffed, equipped and maintained to serve each of you fairly no matter what your health needs are and whether you live in Joe Slovo, Kwanobuhle, Aloes, Walmer or Helenvale.

A recent oversight visit to the Chatty Clinic in this metro revealed that there is massive pressure on clinics in the NMBM.  Patients who need medical attention queue from as early as 4 in the morning! The lucky ones at the front of the queue see the nurses and receive their medicine on the same day.

The unlucky patients who are further down the line see the nurses but have to return and queue the next day to submit their scripts and collect medicines because the demand was just too great the day before. These are harsh conditions for which forward thinking solutions are as necessary as they are for The Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.

The Chatty Clinic is extremely busy even though the staff see an average of 9000 patients monthly it is a caring, inclusive, well run Clinic.  Where there are challenges the staff and the generous volunteers who man the early morning queues give patients coffee and sandwiches while they wait.

So this Clinic displays the face of a caring, well run clinic because it is in a DA Ward with a forward thinking, solution orientated Councillor who has instituted a system that protects patients from gangsters and Moms and babies from the cold. We can do the same in the metro and bring the same commitment and principles to this messy metro!

Yesterday I learnt that the Doctor who serves the elderly at the Gelvandale Frail Care Home has not had her contract renewed. This means that from 1 November 2015 – just as we head for the Christmas Holiday –  approximately 70 elderly residents will require assistance to visit a doctor outside the Frail Care Home. Such a change will incur additional costs and impact negatively on staff workload as well as on the wellbeing of families and residents.

It is a sad fact that the DOH is not managing. There are pockets of excellence in some areas but on the whole the Department cannot pay all its bills or appoint all the staff needed to run and keep our facilities and equipment  working, stocked and properly maintained.

Hence slashed budgets and the pitiful plight of Managers who have to choose which bills to pay and make life and death decisions because the DOH has failed our people.

Three examples in the last 13 days highlight this crisis.  The Weekend Post of 3 October showcases the risk and danger experienced by hijacked Ambulance Drivers in this Metro who will now receive the dubious “protection” of panic buttons!

Comments in an article in the EP Herald on 15 October indicate clearly that “ the department is drowning in debt and unlikely to meet its targets”. The DOH  was criticised by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts for weak bookkeeping, feeble control and fruitless and wasteful expenditure and again, on 16 October 2015, Sizwe Kupelo,  DOH Spokesperson, announced austerity measures in the media because the DOH has run out of funds.

This is altogether a bad set of indicators for health matters in our province!!

The DA looks forward to a fair fight to win this beautiful city and to the opportunity to improve service delivery here for all our people.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Metro is a great place to build a city founded on the 6 DA pillars of safety, care, inclusivity, opportunity, forward thinking and efficient management.

We look forward to serving you because change is coming to the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro!

The Democratic Alliance supports the report.

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