Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba has summoned hospital bosses to a meeting in East London on Tuesday to figure out how to improve the services provided by state facilities.

The Eastern Cape health department faces a high number of medical negligence claims and in 2017/2018 paid out more R876.7m to successful claimants, or 32% of the national total.

The meeting is a direct result of health minister Zweli Mkhize’s meeting with health MECs ahead of the ninth SA Aids conference in Durban two weeks ago.

“He requested that MECs drastically improve the quality of care in our institutions, in hospitals and clinics,” said his spokesperson, Popo Maja. “He appealed to MECs to do their utmost within the available human resource constraints,” he said.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Eastern Cape health department’s spokesperson, Sizwe Kupelo, said Gomba and the hospital CEOs would be discussing staff shortages, staff attitudes to patients, and the cleanliness of facilities.

“The critical meeting with the hospital bosses is meant to come up with tangible and feasible solutions to how the province can turn [around] the state of public health care,” he said.

“While the department has been filling vacancies, there is still a serious need for more staff. Without doctors, nurses, cleaners, porters, general workers and other staffers, our health system would be crippled,” he said.

The meeting is also expected to discuss the procurement of food for patients, following the suspension of Cala Hospital CEO Lulamile Sizelo for allegedly providing patients with sub-standard food. Pictures of plates of white rice and meagre portions of vienna sausages or peas, allegedly served to patients at the hospital, surfaced on social media in early June.

The MEC has made several unannounced hospital visits in Maclear, Mthatha and East London to gauge how hospitals are being managed and whether patients are fairly and professionally treated, said Kupelo. “Her findings and proposed plan of action will be shared at the session tomorrow,” he said.

Kupelo said the MEC would also brief the hospital CEOs on the recent executive council lekgotla resolutions and programme to accelerate service delivery. “The MEC wants every health-care worker in the province to dedicate themselves into serving our people with dignity, care and compassion,” he said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa placed health care high on the agenda during his state of the nation address on Thursday, naming it as one of the seven key areas that the government would focus on during the next five years.

“We must attend to the capacity of our hospitals and clinics. An 80-year-old grandmother cannot spend an entire day in a queue waiting for her medication. An ill patient cannot be turned away because there is a shortage of doctors and nurses … A woman in labour cannot have her unborn child’s life put in danger because the ambulance has taken too long to come,” he said in his speech.


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