Public Protector shocked by conditions at Olifantshoek health centres

Public Protector Adv Thuli Madonsela on Thursday expressed shock and sadness at the conditions she found when she embarked on a surprise visit to community and primary healthcare centres in Olifantshoek, Northern Cape on Thursday.
The visit formed part of the activities of the annual National Good Governance Week, which commenced on Monday. The week seeks to foster a collective consciousness and a common understanding of good governance. It also aims to strengthen synergies among oversight bodies and civil society entities that play a central role in promoting and enforcing good governance.
This year’s campaign focuses on ensuring a responsive service delivery through ethical leadership. Civil society is also being mobilised to play a part in promoting ethical governance, which is at the core of good governance and responsive service delivery.
During her visit, the Public Protector was exposed to dire staffing conditions where the community healthcare centre with a staff complement of 12 only had five personnel, some of which were on annual or sick leave.
The lonesome Sister on duty, who doubled up as a matron was taking care of HIV, TB, prenatal and psychiatrist patients from both the main centre (in town) and the primary one in the township, with the help of only two assistants.
The Public Protector learned with amazement that the main centre, which was supposed to be a 24-hour service, could only open until the afternoon due to staff shortage. It did not have equipment, including a stove to cook for the sick. People who fell ill at night had to rely on one ambulance to ferry them to a hospital in Kuruman.
Among other concerns expressed by the Sister was infection control, which she said was non-existent at the centres. She said there was only one cleaner, whose responsibilities included doing the laundry, cleaning patients up and cooking, a matter that she said was posing a risk of bacterial infection for the ill. The Public Protector also heard that there was problem of perinatal deaths at the facilities.
Responding to the situation, she said she would take up the matter with the provincial Health MEC, the Premier and the Minister of Health, requesting them to visit the area to witness the poor conditions at the facilities for themselves.
The Public Protector added that she would also bring the matter to the attention of the District Department of Health, which was said to be responsible for the staffing of the two facilities.
“From our side, we will need the authorities to develop an action plan that will seek to remedy the situation immediately. We will work with them to find out what has led to the situation, looking into their procurement and staffing policies,” she said.
Though disturbed by the situation at the two facilities, the Public Protector was heartened by the dedication and empathy displayed by the few staff members, who were on duty.
For more info:
Oupa Segalwe
Manager: Communication
Public Protector SA
Tel: (012) 366 7035
Cell: 072 264 3273 
Published Date: 
Thursday, October 18, 2012