Public Protector and Northern Cape Legislature agree on service delivery challenges and cooperation
Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela and the Northern Cape Legislature on Thursday agreed on most of the service delivery challenges facing the province with regard to universal access to quality health care and reducing poverty and extreme hunger.
This follows her meeting with members of the legislature, where she reported on pressing matters she picked up during her three-day stay in the province. The Public Protector picked up the problems during her interactions with patients and staffers as Postmansburg and Kimberley Hospitals as well as the Betty Gaetsewe Clinic in Galeshewe. More issues were picked up during her interface with community members in Tsantsabane and Sol Plaatjie local municipalities.
Among other things, the people complained about ambulances traveling long distances from district hospitals to Kimberly Hospital even for minor but life-saving operations. They also complained about a system that operated like a taxi service, picking up several patients at a time at clinics, travelling long distances to get to hospital even for small operations in healthcare facilities. Shortages of medicine, scarcity of critical medical equipment such as sonars for pregnant women and unavailability of theatres were also a cause for concern.
Difficulties with medical staff accommodation, pay discrepancies for medical staff and community health care givers, and long delays in rendering medical services also formed part of the Public Protector’s report to authorities.
“We will make sure that the issues elevated are referred to the relevant departments and portfolio committees and give feedback to the Public Protector,” Speaker, Kenny Mmoiemang said.
Mr Mmoiemang said that the legislature was aware of some of the issue as it had picked the problems up through its oversight work. He added that the legislature would be interested to see the agreement the Public Protector recently signed with the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Zweli Mkhize. The agreement seeks to expedite investigation against senior government officials and office bearers.
While expressing satisfaction at the commitments made, the Public Protector emphasised the importance of drawing up clear timelines and communicating regularly with affected parties.
She particularly called for the prioritisation of pay discrepancies of administrative staff at Kimberly Hospital and those of community health care givers, imploring MEC Mxolisi Sokatsha to regularly communicate timelines and implementation progress to affected parties.
“Sometimes we get caught up in grand planning while there are things that we can fix quickly. We must also communicate regularly so that we avoid the recurrence of industrial action,” the Public Protector said.
Earlier in the day the Public Protector paid a surprise visit to Betty Gaetsewe clinic at the invitation of an elderly woman she met on Wednesday at Kimberley Hospital. The woman had complained about poor services at the facility.
Nursing staff at the facility told the Public Protector that they service 6000 to 8000 patients a month, with a staff ten professional nurses and four doctors that visit once a week.
The nurses told the Public Protector that the clinic, which operates for eight hours a day, had no dedicated pharmacist and was in dire need of a full-time doctor. Patients confirmed that long waiting periods at the facility was the order of the day. Understaffing was cited as the root cause of the problem. Issues about shortages of medication were also brought up. All these formed part of the issued brought to the attention of authorities at the legislature.
One of the patients complained that diabetic elderly people often had to wait in the queue for hours on end, without anything to eat. A suggestion to provide food for such patients was made.
The Public Protector was in the province as part of her office's National Stakeholder Dialogue, which seeks to strengthen the state's ability to deliver on the Millennium Development Goals, placing emphasis on health and poverty. The dialogue moves to Limpopo next week. Details will follow in due course.