2023 was a busy year for healthcare in South Africa. We saw several promising policy developments, landmark court cases, important pieces of legislation, and some changes in leadership. Yet, take a step back and at facility level little seems to have changed. Shortages of healthcare workers persist, corruption is still rife, budgets tight, and our health governance crisis remains as acute as ever. Marcus Low looks back at the year in health in fewer than 1 000 words.
The surgical backlog in the Northern Cape appears to have ballooned in recent months. The province’s MEC for health says it is due to a lack of specialised theatre staff and delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Refilwe Mochoari reports on the latest figures and asks what the Northern Cape Department of Health is planning to do about the situation.
The head of health in the Northern Cape – Dr Dion Theys – appeared in the Kimberly Magistrate’s Court on Monday. Theys who was appointed as permanent head of health in July this year, along with two co-accused were released on bail of R5 000 each. This was Theys’ second brush with the law – albeit in different courts – in just over a month after his appointment. Despite these developments and an outcry among some health stakeholders, the Northern Cape health department has not yet taken decisive action against Theys. Refilwe Mochoari reports.
In March this year, the director-general of the Northern Cape government, Justice Bekebeke during a parliamentary oversight visit acknowledged that about 80% of the health facilities in the province did not meet their performance targets of finding people with tuberculosis and helping them complete treatment. Refilwe Mochoari looked at the statistics and spoke to several roleplayers about why the province is missing its TB targets.
The Northern Cape Department of Health has for the last three years only had acting heads of department. Despite undertakings from the Office of the Premier last year and again earlier this year that an appointment will be made soon, the department still has no permanent head, something that has opposition political parties and some unions up in arms. Refilwe Mochoari reports.
Two senior officials have returned to the Northern Cape Department of Health following suspension, but the department remains without a permanent head. Opposition parties and trade union DENOSA have expressed concern over the impact the leadership instability is having on healthcare services in the province. Refilwe Mochoari reports.
Northern Cape Health MEC Marupeng Lekwene and the CEO of the Robert Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley recently launched a turnaround plan to address a litany of challenges at the province’s only tertiary hospital. Refilwe Mochoari and Alicestine October combed through departmental reports and speeches and spoke to several health stakeholders to assess the new plan.
Staff shortages, lack of equipment, and not having enough ambulances on the road are all challenges hampering response times and the quality of emergency medical services (EMS) in the Northern Cape. Refilwe Mochoari spoke to relevant stakeholders, including healthcare users and EMS staff about these perennial problems and what is needed to fix them.
The Northern Cape Health Department has been without a permanent department head (HOD) since July 2020 and an acting head has been suspended following his arrest in August last year on charges of fraud and corruption. Organised labour and opposition parties in the province are concerned over the impact that the leadership instability has on healthcare services. Refilwe Mochoari reports.
This month it is two years since Northern Cape Premier Dr Zamani Saul opened the multimillion-rand Kimberley Mental Health Hospital, calling it a ‘monument of corruption’. By then, Saul said the hospital, which has a capacity of 287 beds, already had 160 patients and will be operationalised in phases. Yet, union Nehawu, community healthcare workers, activists, and some mental health practitioners insist mental health users in the public sector are still disadvantaged because the hospital is still not running at capacity. Refilwe Mochoari reports.
The Northern Cape provincial government is still deciding whether or not to act against two of the province’s top health officials who this week appeared in court on charges of fraud and corruption. Opposition parties and trade unions are calling for the officials to be suspended.
The Northern Cape Health Department has come under fire from NEHAWU, the DA, residents and healthcare workers for not testing enough and dragging its feet with its COVID-19 response. Refilwe Mekoa and Alicestine October investigate.