The public health system has been racked by one scandal after another. More than 144 state mental health patients died in the Life Esidimeni tragedy, over 200 people perished in the recent listeriosis outbreak and the lack of oncology services in KwaZulu-Natal has left countless patients without life-saving treatment. Yet Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is adamant there is no crisis. In a hastily convened media conference on Tuesday, he assured the nation that the health system — while hugely overloaded, with long waiting times and diminishing quality in some places — was not collapsing. The public sector was providing 4.2-million people with HIV medication, treating 300,000 tuberculosis patients and dispensing chronic medicines to 2.2-million patients at sites away from hospitals to reduce overcrowding, he said. These achievements, he said, were not the hallmark of a collapsed system.

His selective use of statistics is a classic case of a politician under fire trying to pres...

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