Cardiac Catastrophe Looms

Hundreds of people in need of critical, life-saving treatment are desperate, as the only functional cardiac catheterisation laboratory in the Eastern Cape is broken beyond repair.

The cardiac cath lab, which is housed at the Provincial Hospital in Port Elizabeth, has rendered an essential service to children and adults with heart disease and other heart conditions.

It has been manned by the first paediatrician in Africa to qualify as an electro-physiologist that specialises in heart rhythm disturbances. There is now every chance that our province will lose these skills as the specialist cannot operate without the necessary equipment.

While there is another cardiac catheterization laboratory in the Eastern Cape, at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha, but it is not functioning as it has no professional staff.

In response to a question set in the Legislature, (IQP 28 Question 351) the MEC for Health, Helen Sauls-August, gave the assurance that the Paediatric Cardiology Unit at the Nelson Mandela Hospital would be staffed and functional by the 1st of October this year.

The Democratic Alliance has however learnt that this is not the case. The doors remain closed and there is no paediatric cardiologist in sight.

I will be writing to MEC Sauls-August, to follow up on what is being done to bring the cath lab at Provincial back online, and to find out what has caused the delays in appointing staff for the new facility in Mthatha.

Ironically, the Programme within the Health Department which is responsible for the maintenance of facilities and the provision of health care equipment, had just under R12-million transferred out of the programme, primarily to cover medico-legal claims which were incurred by other programmes. There was also an underspend of R5,619 million in the programme.

This money could have gone a long way to affect the essential repairs needed at the cardiac catheterisation laboratory, thus preventing this catastrophe.

Under a DA government, clean governance allows for monies allocated to repairs being spent on repairs, and not allocated elsewhere to mop up the effects of poor management and corruption.

Maintenance of specialist equipment would be prioritised, and the medical needs of patients would be suitably catered for.

Only a DA government can offer professional health care services to the people of the Eastern Cape.