Specialists spurned at tertiary hospitals in the Eastern Cape

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Health

The Eastern Cape’s two training hospitals are on the verge of collapse, as vacancy rates for specialist posts skyrocket, but the Department of Health is not addressing the problem.

At the Livingstone Tertiary Hospital in the Nelson Mandela Bay district, only 51,7% of specialist posts are currently filled, while at the Frere Tertiary Hospital in Buffalo City Metro, only 33% of full-time specialist posts are currently filled.

The shortage of specialists can only mean one thing, people who otherwise could be saved, are going to die.

These shocking statistics were revealed in response to my parliamentary questions to establish the nature and extent of unfilled posts at these hospitals. The unfilled posts stretch across a variety of departments, including Neurosurgery, Anesthesiology, Cardiology; Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Paediatrics.

Not only do these specialists bring valuable skills to the institutions where they reside, they also play a vital role in passing these skills on to others. Skills that are vital in the proper treatment and care of patients, and the very same skills that are severely lacking in the province, which is one of the key drivers of medico-legal claims against the Department.

A capable state would prioritise the filling of these critical funded vacancies, to ensure that the necessary skills are kept in the province and that those skills are passed on to the next generation of doctors, to provide residents with the healthcare they deserve.

In a Department reeling from years of maladministration and poor planning, specialist and other critical posts remain unfilled, coming in second behind vast numbers of officials, who, instead of turning the fortunes of the Department around, have contributed to its further decline through chaotic cadre deployment and corruption.

I will write to the MEC, Nomakhosazana Meth, to establish whether there is a plan to fill these posts, so as to guarantee the ability of our tertiary institutions to offer the specialist medical services required by our citizens. I will further try to establish the departmental plan to fill all other vacant funded medical posts.

It is time for the Department of Health in the Eastern Cape to undergo a deep cleanse and rid itself of unnecessary officialdom so that critical specialist posts can be filled and decent medical services can once again be offered to the people of this province.