Western Cape health services under scrutiny

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Public protector Thuli Madonsela yesterday told the provincial government her office was investigating 1,800 complaints across the Western Cape.

Madonsela also briefed Premier Helen Zille and provincial leaders on findings at public health facilities in the province. He office could not confirm last night exactly how many health-related cases they were investigating in the province.

Madonsela said her team wanted to “raise the blind spots”. They found a shortage of chronic medication, patients waiting for ambulances and other services and language barriers at one facility that could lead to misdiagnosis.

Zille retorted that locals should not rely solely on ambulances to get them to hospitals though. She said patients should also get their families to take them to hospitals or clinics instead of waiting for ambulances.

“That’s a very normal thing,” said Zille.

“If people can go (to hospitals) with their own transport we can use ambulances for people who need it. We all take our relatives to hospital, especially when they are in labour.”

Madonsela replied: “The principle is fair but the application is problematic.”
“People have been told if they are pregnant they must find their own transport… that pregnancy is not an emergency, unlike stabbing.”

Madonsela said those in charge of ambulances should not tell patients “take your own transport”.

Madonsela said her office would issue a full report to the provincial government detailing findings of its site visits and public meetings in July. They found locals complaining about a “shortage of ambulances and medicine at Phola Park clinic in Paarl”.

Her office said they would also investigate “allegations of ill treatment of patients by staff, long waiting queues, shortage of drugs and in some instances, racism”.

Provincial health minister Theuns Botha said at Madonsela’s briefing last night most complaints were a “simple problem of communication”.

Theuns said his department had partnered with private doctors and clinics to deliver public health services.

“If we add 100 private (doctor’s) practices then these people (patients) are not in our facilities,” said Botha.

He said this would reduce waiting times at public health facilities.

“We are doing everything to reduce waiting times. Ninety percent of our problems relate to waiting times,” said Botha.

“We have decentralised delivery of medication. That reduces patient waiting times by 30%.”

Zille explained that chronic medication delivery to patients had been outsourced to small businesses in various townships.


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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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