More money needed to save Limpopo's crumbling health system

To address the health crises in the province, Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba has pleaded with the government to pump more money into her department and to stop building new facilities until the old ones have been renovated.

The Limpopo health system is currently faced with various challenges ranging from a shortage of doctors and medication to corruption and dilapidated buildings.

Major challenges

“I want more money to save the lives of our people. We cannot be competing with other government entities for money. I believe that health should be a number one priority,” said Ramathuba.  

Last week hundreds of Treatment Action Campaign members marched to the department offices to hand a memorandum to the MEC.

Some of oldest health facilities facing major challenges include Pietersburg Hospital which continues to exist with only one operating theatre on weekends and public holidays due to a shortage of staff; Nkhensani Hospital in Giyani which is without senior Clinical Manager and Chief Executive Officer and Elim Hospital which continues to struggle with dilapidated buildings and a shortage of running water.

Tshilidzini Hospital in Vhembe, also with dilapidated buildings, is so overcrowded that patients sometimes have to be discharged early to make place for others.

At Malamulele Hospital water shortages continue to be a challenge, as patients are forced to bath themselves using only buckets.

Suffering and loss of dignity

“We have made an appeal to the government to allow us to stop building new health facilities and to first renovate the dilapidated ones which we have. We cannot build new hospitals while the ones we have are not being maintained,” the MEC said.

The shortage of staff has resulted in patients at most of the clinics and hospitals being forced to wait several hours before they are seen by a nurse or doctor.

“The dysfunction in Limpopo is claiming lives and leading to widespread suffering and the dignity of our people is being trampled upon every day. There are too few doctors and nurses, which is not acceptable. The shortages lead to long waiting times, longer hospital stays, higher numbers of death and increased pressure on the few staff we have”, said TAC Provincial Manager, Moses Makhomisani.

A full audit needed

The districts hardest hit are Vhembe and Mopani where a shortage of HIV test kits continues to be a challenge as pregnant women are not being tested. This means many women have to go for months into their pregnancies without knowing their HIV status, risking the child lives.

Some of the demands made by TAC in their memorandum include a request for TB posters be distributed to all facilities, that a full audit of all health facilities be done to assess whether sufficient TB infection control measures are in place and an urgent strategy be made to address the continued stock shortages and a resolution of the ongoing shortage of HIV test kits.

“We will hold the MEC and her department accountable for the suffering of our poor people because of their empty promises. We will not rest until we have a response to all concerns and questions outlined in the memorandum,” said Makhomisani. – Health-e News.

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