19 SEPTEMBER 2013
The Minister of Health announced today results of an investigation into the state of healthcare in the Eastern Cape and aspects of a plan to address the crisis. He acknowledged that the impetus behind this response was pressure from the Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Coalition (ECHCAC) and a report released by certain Coalition members.
The ECHCAC welcomes the Minister’s commitments and is dedicated to monitoring their implementation. We will moreover continue to report on problems brought to our attention.
The Minister confirmed the veracity of the report and observed that it is “poignantly titled Death and Dying in the Eastern Cape”.
We applaud the Minister’s swift response and look forward to working with him going forward. We are encouraged by his commitment to tabling a comprehensive plan to address the crisis as called for in the ECHCAC memorandum.
In contrast, the Provincial Department of Health continues to pronounce conflicting positions. On the one hand, the MEC and the ECDoH spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo have repeatedly denied that there is a crisis; on the other, they have claimed that they are doing all in their power to fix it yet the problems are so extreme that they are unable to do so. We encourage the National Department to work with the Provincial Department to enable it to come to terms with the reality of the crisis and coordinate a plan to address it.
We note also the importance of addressing the crisis at the facility level and are encouraged that the Minister has responded in regard to certain facilities that we have brought to his attention. We also agree with the Minister’s assessment that the OR Tambo District is in need of particular attention. However, we note that the crisis in the Eastern Cape results in large part from system and management failures and will continue until these are addressed. Moreover, the crisis is not confined to OR Tambo or the facilities mentioned in the report but reaches across the province. We therefore encourage the departments to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to turn around the state of the healthcare system throughout the province. Such plan should include measurable indicators and milestones as well as clearly define responsible parties.
The ECHCAC has provided the provincial and national departments until 11 October 2013 to table a comprehensive plan to address the systemic afflictions that plague healthcare in the province. We reiterate that call now. As the problems in the Eastern Cape healthcare system require long-term solutions, the Coalition is committed to a long-term campaign: we will continue until people in the Eastern Cape have access to the healthcare services that the Constitution entitles them to. We believe that our strength derives in large part from our broad base and are glad to have seen the Coalition grow considerably in recent weeks.
The Coalition also wishes to respond to the MEC’s reported comments in a TRU FM radio discussion on Sunday. The MEC claimed during the discussion that ECHCAC had on Monday cancelled a meeting scheduled with him. This is incorrect. We have for a long time been trying to meet with the MEC to discuss the challenges in the Eastern Cape health system. However, as the timeline below reveals, the MEC has cancelled and postponed our meetings on numerous occasions.
Early 2013: The Treatment Action Campaign first requests to meet the MEC. A meeting is confirmed for 9 August and reconfirmed when the TAC pointed out it was a public holiday.
26 July 2013: The 9 August meeting is rescheduled by the MEC’s office to 20 August.
16 August 2013: The 20 August meeting is rescheduled by the MEC’s office to 13 September. The letter states it is for “Reasons beyond my control”.
5 September 2013: The Coalition proposes a meeting for 9 or 10 September to discuss the report of which he had been couriered an advance copy.
5 September 2013: The MEC writes to the Coalition and schedules a meeting on 16 September.
11 September 2013: The MEC writes to the Coalition and cancels the 16 September meeting citing “prior commitments”.
The Coalition applauds the Minister’s swift response and awaits signs of similar dedication from the MEC.
The ECHCAC is a coalition of organisations and individuals primarily from the Eastern Cape dedicated to fixing the healthcare system and ensuring the realisation of the constitutional right to health in the Province.
Visit the ECHCAC website and sign the memorandum at: www.echealthcrisis.org.za
Anele Yawa: 073 555 8849