Health MEC blasts staff

Estelle Ellis

EASTERN Cape Health MEC Sicelo Gqobana has described the management of his own Health Department in Bhisho as lazy, out of touch, obsessed with planning and unable to make even the smallest changes that would improve the delivery of basic healthcare.

Citing a litany of serious problems, malfunctions and doctor shortages at rural hospitals he visited, Gqobana gave an example of one hospital which was so infested with cockroaches that its patients’ health was being compromised.

The MEC said yesterday he would call for an urgent management meeting this week to address the lack of support the province’s hospitals received from the Eastern Cape Health Department’s head office.

In an interview after his visit to four rural hospitals, Gqobana lashed out at health officials in Bhisho, saying they did nothing to restore confidence in the public health system, accused them of misplaced priorities and said they were too busy to effect even the smallest changes which would make a huge difference to the people of the Eastern Cape.

Gqobana visited government hospitals in Cradock, Dordrecht, Indwe and Middelburg.

These were part of a series of visits to the province’s government hospitals to gain first-hand knowledge of the service delivery and problems on the ground. “My impressions from all four of the hospitals are that the head office at Bhisho does not understand what is going on in these hospitals and does not support these hospitals.

“Even in matters exclusively under the jurisdiction of head office, they do not play their part.”

He said the hospitals all had crumbling infrastructure and huge procurement problems – all areas where the health department could have assisted if it had its priorities right.

“Several companies and service providers are now unable to provide services to hospitals as they are not paid in time. Meanwhile infrastructure at hospitals is collapsing.

“Pipes are leaking, the water in basins is rotting, machines are not working, X-rays are not functioning.”

At all the hospitals he visited, patient care was suffering because of a dire lack of doctors. In addition, none had a qualified pharmacist.

Gqobana said that at Middelburg Hospital he had found the premises so infested with cockroaches that “the health and nutrition of patients” was compromised.

“They have tried their level best to use pest control – but to no avail.”

He said the “complete shortage of doctors” at Dordrecht Hospital was a cause of great concern.

“In Middelburg when I visited the dispensary I found medication there dating back to 2006.

“This is a source of great danger to patients who might receive it,” he said.

“They only have nurses working in the dispensary and no pharmacist.”

Gqobana said all these problems were management issues which had to be sorted out by the department in Bhisho.

“But they are too ‘busy’ with other things to deal with quick ways to restore the trust of the public in government hospitals,” Gqobana said.

He said all his concerns would be raised at the urgent management meeting in the next two days and he would be able to report back towards the end of the week.

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