Public Protector welcomes Limpopo’s decision to cut off companies that supply hospital with poor quality medical equipment

Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Wednesday welcomed a decision by the Limpopo Health Department to do away with companies that were allegedly supplying public hospitals with substandard equipment.

“We were happy with the fact that the department picked this problem up and is implementing a turnaround strategy that involves going back to reputable suppliers because equipment that keeps breaking all the time interrupts services,” the Public Protector said.

Her remarks followed an interaction with medical staff at Mankweng Hospital outside Polokwane earlier in the day, where staff made an impassionate plea to be supplied with durable equipment. The Public Protector was at the hospital on a surprise visit.

During the interaction with staff, a concerned nurse at the facility’s obstetrical department told the Public Protector that although they had critical equipment such as foetal scopes, the equipment was of poor quality.

“We do have equipment but the quality is not durable. It breaks easily and is not repairable. We need durable equipment that will last and enable us to deliver quality care,” the nurse told the Public Protector.

But Senior General Manager from the department, Deliwe Nyathikazi, who was on site during the Public Protector’s tour of the facility, said the department was aware of the problem and had since took a decision to procure equipment from reputable companies only.

Ms Nyathikazi added that the department would also enter into long term leases - that cover servicing and repair of equipment- with the suppliers as a measure to ensure cost effectiveness. She explained that the regular replacement of low quality equipment was costing the department a lot of funds.

Staff at the 530 bed facility also complained about inadequate human resources, saying the problem often left the current personnel overwhelmed and resulted in slow services to patients.

Patients on the other hand complained about medical files that were allegedly getting lost in hospital premises. One woman, who had brought a child that had been hit by a car to receive medical attention, said she had been waiting for a file for three hours only to be informed that the document was lost.

Staff said the hospital did not have enough space to store the files. Others, however, alleged that hospital management was irregularly employing unqualified personnel for filing duty, compromising the quality of service.

Expressing concern about the situation, the Public Protector asked authorities to fix the problem as it had serious implications for the patients. She said the child might not be able to claim Road Accident Fund benefits because of the missing file.

The Public Protector also held a meeting with stakeholders in Polokwane, where further service delivery complaints involving health and other government services were made.

At the meeting, one man complained about a healthcare facility in Fetakgomo municipality, saying it had been billed as a hospital when it was in fact a clinic that did not have a doctor and did not operate 24 hours a day.

There was an allegation that a hospital in Thabaleshoba remained a white elephant since its construction was completed in 2010 even though the local community was in need of its services. The department, however, denied this, saying the hospital was operational and was being underutilized. Another complaint about an under-resourced clinic that had to service more than 20 villages was made.

Other complaints related to issues of land, traditional leadership, RDP housing and the plight of deaf people in relation to non-availability of sign language practitioners at government service points, including hospitals.

On the issue of land, complainants alleged mismanagement of funds on pieces of land that had mineral activities and on allocation of land for beneficiaries of the restitution programme.

Responding to land complaints, the Public Protector promised that she would take up the issues with national government, with a view to embark on a systemic investigation. She would further follow up all the cases, working closely with competent organs of state and investigate all the complex matters.

The Public Protector and her deputy, Adv. Kevin Malunga, were in the province as part of their office’s National Stakeholder Dialogue.

The dialogue focuses on strengthening government's ability to deliver on the Millennium Development Goals, placing special emphasis on improving healthcare services and eradicating poverty. It proceeds to Free State next week. Details will follow in due course.

Meanwhile, the Public Protector and her deputy visited Steneng squatter camp outside Polokwane at the invitation of Mayor Freddy Greaver, where they saw the squalid conditions under which people there lived.

They also visited a site at which two children died last week when their shack was gutted by fire. The Public Protector said she would approach national government and recommend -to the administration- areas in its expenditure where it could make savings to help dwellers of settlements such as Steneng.

For more information, contact:

Kgalalelo Masibi
Public Protector South Africa
012 366 7006
079 507 0399
0800 11 20 40

Published Date: 
Wednesday, August 28, 2013