Public Protector concludes Western Cape stakeholder dialogue
Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Wednesday concluded her visit to the Western Cape with an unannounced visit to Brooklyn Clinic in Milnerton, Cape Town, where an octogenarian pleaded with her to ask doctors to stop sending her back and forth for her medication.
The 81-year-old woman told the Public Protector that she was often returned home and told to come back a few hours later for her medication. On her return, she would be told to come back the following day. She said it was difficult for a person her age to make endless trips to the clinic, going back empty- handed each time.
Patients at the facility were, however, generally satisfied with the services they were receiving. In stark contrast to what the Public Protector observed in other health care facilities, including in North West and Mpumalanga, most of the patients said they got their medication on time and were happy with the treatment they got from staff.
Unlike in other facilities, patients are never turned back at the Brooklyn Clinic, which operates between 7H00 and 16H00, sees an average of 400 patients a day and has only 17 staff members, including two doctors and two pharmacists. On Tuesday, the Public Protector heard that patients that arrived after the daily intake figure is reached at Phola Park Clinic (usually after 9:00), are told to return the following day.
There were, however, a few isolated reports of the ill-treatment of elderly patients, unhygienic restrooms and long waiting periods.
At a meeting with organised stakeholders later in the day at the City of Cape Town Council Chambers, provincial government authorities assured her that they would attend to the service delivery issues raised by communities.
During the meeting, attitudinal conduct, lengthy waiting periods at health centres and ambulances and acute shortage of health care professionals in public facilities, among other things, remained a recurring theme.
This follows the Public Protector’s interaction with patients during unannounced visits to Phola Park clinic in Mbekweni township and Paarl Hospital, and a dialogue with community members at Paarl East Thusong Service Centre on Tuesday.
Common issues discussed during Wednesday’s meeting included staffing problems in public medical facilities, long waiting periods before patients can receive medical attention and medical infrastructure that struggles to keep up with the public demand.
There were also issues surrounding the response times regarding ambulance services as was the case with medical supplies, including medication for chronic illnesses. A need for cultural diversity among medical professionals brought to the fore again.
Provincial government authorities, including Deputy Director-General for Provincial Hospitals and Emergency Services, Dr. Beth Engelbrecht, assured the Public Protector that they were aware of the issues raised and were in the process of addressing the matters. This includes staffing problems and waiting periods.
A behavioral programme offered by Ernst and Young on behalf of the provincial government was one such intervention aimed at addressing the attitudinal problems, Dr. Engelbrecht said.
The Public Protector promised to follow up on all the undertaking made by the authorities.
The Public Protector was in the Western Cape as part of her annual stakeholder dialogue and public hearing. The campaign focuses on strengthening government’s ability to deliver on Millennium Development Goals, particularly those on ending poverty and on health. The dialogue goes to the Eastern Cape next week.