Presentation of Report of Portfolio Committee on Health

Taking legislature to the People

Elliotdale, Amathole District Municipality
17 October 2018

Madam Speaker, Honourable Premier, Honourable members, Traditional Leaders and dignitaries from the district, officials, members of the public, I greet you

To measure the success of a democracy, one should not look at the leaders, for they will always try to convince you of their success. Instead, go into their schools, go into their clinics, go into their libraries. Go into their old age facilities and go to where their most vulnerable citizens are. Your eyes and your heart will tell you everything you need to know.

Madam Speaker, the clinics and the hospitals that we visited on oversight painted a dismal picture of a department that is failing the people. When questioned by the committee, the officials had no shortage of excuses and explanations as to why these clinics and hospitals were in a bad way.

It was the greatest nurse of our time, the indomitable Florence Nightingale, who said the following, and I quote: “ I attribute my success to this – I never gave, nor took, excuses.”

I wish to highlight a few of the most repetitive of the findings of the committee.

The first of these is the issue of under staffing. Almost every facility that was visited complained of severe staff shortages. Many of these institutions were told by officials that the unfilled posts were as a result of some problem with the “baseline”. Posts have been moved, dissolved, lost, found or just disappeared completely as a result of this magical baseline.

Madam Speaker, the reality is that their baseline does not exist. These have just been excuses, and in some cases, downright porky pies, to absolve the officials in the department of the responsibility of filling these posts.

In the meantime, the existing nurses and doctors at these clinics and hospitals are working dangerously long hours to try to meet the health needs of their communities. This is not their fault – they are trying desperately to keep the doors of their facilities open. But, these long hours of work expose the department to further risk of litigation. Ukuba usana lwako luno sweleka lusalinde uqgqirha, ungeva njani ?

Another huge crisis that many of our clinics and hospitals face in this district is the shortages, stock outs and sometimes the complete absence of medicines in these facilities. Once again, the officials are full of words. It is the fault of the Mthatha Medicine Depot, it is the fault of the suppliers, it is the fault of the budget, njalo njalo njalo. Abantu badinga amayeza, hayi intetha kuphela.

It is shameful that in a nation where we have the biggest telescope in the world and can study faraway galaxies, we can split the atom to release energy and we can train dogs to identify when their owner is going to have a seizure, but we cannot save a little boy’s life when all he needs is medicine for diarrhoea.

We must talk about the Mthatha Medicine Depot. When we ask written questions about why this Depot is not delivering medicine to the clinics and hospitals, we are told that everything is under control and by February next year, the depot will function properly again.

However, after a recent oversight visit by the committee Chairperson, it became very clear that the department has failed to implement any of the recommendations that have been made by the committee over the years. So they disrespect these communities that they should be serving, and they disrespect the oversight function of the Legislature too. They must be brought to book!

Another major problem faced by the people of our province, especially those living in the rural and deep rural areas, is the terrible shortage of ambulances. In July, there were only about 200 ambulances serving the Eastern Cape people, instead of the more than 500 that are needed. The turn around time for ambulances is five hours, sometimes even longer than that.

Madam Speaker, having said this, I was very excited recently to see a convoy of brand new ambulances driving through Butterworth. I sincerely hope that they were not on their way to Durban, and I also sincerely hope that this is just the beginning of a brand new fleet that will boost our ambulance numbers and thus reduce the turn around time for patients substantially.

Madam Speaker, at the Butterworth Hospital , the CEO made the shocking revelation that by the 13th of August , the hospital had spent 96% of its Goods and Services budget already. That budget must last until the end of March next year but it was finished in August.

It is very clear that between the CEO and the CFO, they have no idea how to draw up a budget, or stick to a budget. What is the responsibility of top management if not to ensure that budgets are adhered to, so that the goods and services required by the hospital on an ongoing basis can be paid for in order for the hospital to continue functioning for the whole year?

The CEO promises that the department is aware of this and they will top up the budget. But what if they cant? How will the hospital pay for security? How will the hospital pay for oxygen?

How will the hospital pay for food? I say to that CEO and his CFO, who have NOT done their jobs, through you Madam Speaker, abantu abatyi zithembiso zenu. Abantu batya ukutya. And if your hospital has none to give them, then shame on you! You should be fired for dereliction of duty.

In conclusion, Madam Speaker, one of the most crippling decisions that the ruling party made during the dawn of our democracy, was to employ cadres instead of skilled and experienced professional people to efficiently manage the delivery of services to all corners of this province.

The window of opportunity to rectify this situation is shrinking. If the ruling party does not clean house, they will maybe find that their house is empty. The years of favours for friends and political paybacks for pals will be over. The Democratic Alliance delivers services effectively where we govern, because we have employed the best people for the job, regardless of their political affiliation.

Madam Speaker, I am the eternal optimist. I live in the hope that all the rotten eggs in the system will be dispatched and that good, honest and hardworking people will replace them. The question remains – does the ruling party have the political will to stop talking about consequence management and start implementing it? Time will tell, if there is still time left ……

So Madam Speaker Let us all be like Florence Nightingale and stop making, and accepting, excuses for the dire state of Health in the province. Fill the posts! Acquire the ambulances! Fire the liars! Chase the cheats! Deliver the drugs! Move the medicine! Nurture the nurses!

The Democratic Alliance supports the report and I thank you.