30 July 2020
About 130 members of the Treatment Action Campaign in the Eastern Cape picketed at the district offices of the Department of Health in Port Elizabeth on Thursday. They want the department to improve conditions at all health facilities in order to combat the spread of Covid-19.
They held up placards which read: “Now we fix the broken healthcare system”, “Dignity for all,” and “Protect community health workers”.
The petition read: “The state of the health system in the Eastern Cape can no longer be ignored. As the wave of the Covid-19 pandemic gains momentum, it is exposing decades of dysfunctionality and failures of the system.”
The petition demands that the department provide a detailed plan on its Covid-19 interventions that will improve staff’s ability to save lives. They also want the department to share its plans on staff vacancies.
The petition stated that the department should say how it will reprioritise its budget to respond to the pandemic following the delivery of the supplementary budget by Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni on 24 June 2020.
TAC general secretary, Anele Yawa, warned officials that if they continue to ignore calls for better services, communities would be mobilized to action. “In the event they fail to respond, let’s come in huge numbers and occupy all offices of the Department of Health around the country,” he said.
Yawa told the picketers: “MEC [for Health Sindiswa] Gomba is incompetent for that job. She wants to buy scooters in place of ambulances yet there is a huge fleet of ambulances parked at hospitals that need to be repaired. Why can’t she use the money to fix those ambulances?”
Lakhe Kona, chairperson of the Laetitia Bam Day Hospital in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage, said patients were being given medication at clinics through the fence.
“Many patients go home without getting their medication. Some patients have already defaulted. Others are sharing the same medication because nurses are afraid of contracting Covid-19. They are reluctant to perform their duties without sufficient personal protective equipment,” said Kona.
Thokozile Mtsolongo, coordinator for the Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Coalition, accused the department of failing to consult the Coalition before implementing policies.
“The problems of the Eastern Cape health system are multi-faceted. There is an acute shortage of staff from the cleaners right up to doctors. Staff are working under life threatening conditions where chances of contracting Covid-19 are very high,” Mtsolongo said.
“Minister Zweli Mkhize recently promised that there will be sufficient supply of oxygen in hospitals but we hear that nothing has improved. The government should have planned this long before the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. We have been trying to get access to the department’s planning discussions but our efforts have been unsuccessful.”
The petition was handed over to deputy director general Dr Litha Matiwane who promised to raise the matter with MEC Gomba.
Dr Matiwane said: “We heard your grievances. We also heard about the challenges faced by patients at Laetitia Bam Day Hospital. We will process the response in seven days.”