Public protector investigates 100 health cases in Cape Town

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Public protector Thuli Madonsela said yesterday that her office would investigate at least 100 health-related cases in the Western Cape.

Madonsela yesterday concluded a two-day public dialogue campaign to “strengthen government’s ability to deliver on United Nations Millennium Development Goals, particularly those on ending poverty and on health”.

She said while the “majority of patients were not complaining and staff were upbeat” at one healthcare facility she visited, there were concerns.

She pointed out an example of a woman who waited in vain for an ambulance to take her to a hospital to give birth.

“We have to find out why the ambulance did not come and she delivered at home,” said Madonsela.

“We also heard Grandma Smith. She was worried that sometimes when she goes to the hospital her medicine is not available or her files are missing. She went to a different hospital and then did not get spectacles that she needed. This should be resolved.”

Madonsela said her office would also investigate why drug patents were not being made available to produce generic drugs that were needed.

“We will be following up with the department of trade and industry and health department to find out what’s stalling (drug patenting). Hospitals are doing their best but they can’t afford expensive medicine,” she said.

“The health department has good intent but at execution level there are stumbling blocks. We are here to look at the blind spots.”

Madonsela’s office has taken up the country’s health concerns after “civil society asked us to investigate infant mortality at hospitals”.

It said in a statement that it wanted to investigate “maladministration and its role in causing poverty and poor health service provision”.

It added: “It was informed by complaints her office has received on the current state of affairs in health facilities such as hospitals and clinics. There have also been sporadic complaints from health caregivers such as doctors.”

“The critical areas under the microscope are infant mortality, management of healthcare facilities such as hospitals and clinics, quality of care, resources, procurement, working conditions of staff and other general health issues,” it said.

Madonsela yesterday concluded her two-day trip in the City of Cape Town’s local government chamber with a public hearing session.

On Tuesday, she visited the Paarl Hospital and Phola Park Clinic in Mbekweni. Her office said she had after that visit “asked Western Cape health officials to investigate allegations of racism and ill-treatment of patients by health care professionals” at these facilities.

It said: “During the visit to Phola Park clinic, isiXhosa-speaking patients complained about a communication breakdown between themselves and medical staff at the clinic due to the fact that they neither speak English nor Afrikaans. Some added that medical staff had been rude towards them.”

Madonsela meanwhile has to face Parliament next week about various allegations regarding her office’s workings. This includes an allegation that her office in Kimberley took bribes from the Democratic Alliance.

“There’s no merit to the allegations. I’ve indicated to that I’ll appear (in Parliament),” said Madonsela.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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