May 25, 2018


Xhariep health shock

Unpacking the challenges ... Sister Jane Mokwatsi of Flora Park Clinic in Gariep Dam addressing members of the NCOP

Unpacking the challenges … Sister Jane Mokwatsi of Flora Park Clinic in Gariep Dam addressing members of the NCOP

Urgent action needed as critical shortages of staff, cleaning equipment, transport for patients, as well as poor maintenance of infrastructure persist . . . 

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) has urged the Free State Department of Health to prioritise the recruitment of critical staff at its facilities in the Xhariep District to ensure better delivery of services.

The call comes following a three-day visit to the district which ended yesterday (Thursday), by a delegation of the NCOP Social Cluster to various health centres across the district to assess the situation and make recommendations on how operations can be improved.

NCOP Social Cluster chairperson Cathy Dlamini who led a team that visited Kopanong south told The Weekly that health workers in the district were working under very strenuous conditions due to staff shortages resulting in long queues at health centres with several patients being referred to bigger health facilities.

“The department is taking too long to recruit critical staff,” said Dlamini in an interview in Bethulie yesterday.

“In some cases clinics don’t even have cleaning equipment or cleaning material because orders are done at provincial level. Even the battery for a BP machine has to be ordered from the provincial office. We recommend that some of the procurement be done at district level. We know that buying in bulk saves money but at times we need to fast-track the process,” she added.
The NCOP delegates were divided into four groups to conduct the oversight visits. The visits culminated in four public meetings last night with delegates interfacing with residents in the district to hear about their service delivery concerns.

The visits are part of preparations for the upcoming NCOP Taking Parliament to the People to be held in the province in August.

It also emerged during the visits that most health centres in the district do not have resident doctors but rely on visiting doctors who usually come just once a week for a just a few hours.

The shortage of professional nurses was also another concern resulting in some even failing to take leave.
Sister Jane Mokwatsi told the delegation during a visit to Flora Park Clinic in Gariep Dam that she was working under a lot of pressure and struggled to find someone to relieve her when she wanted to go on leave.

She also told the delegation that she was assaulted on March 10 while on duty and that the matter, which she reported to the police, did not seem to be moving forward.

“The situation at Flora Park Clinic needs urgent attention. It can’t be allowed to go on like that. First, they must have enough personnel,” said the social cluster chairperson.

Other concerns raised throughout the district included the shortage of water at health facilities, shortage of transport for patients, ambulances taking long to respond to emergencies, poor maintenance of infrastructure, the need for mobile clinics that go into farming communities as well as poor security at the clinics.

Flora Park Clinic, whose structure was built using asbestos, was condemned during the visit because the use of asbestos was banned in the country.

A statement released by another team that visited Zastron said they were shocked to learn that the town had the largest prevalence of psychiatric patients in the district with Matlakeng Clinic among the top six anti-retroviral (ARV) dispensers in the province.

The delegation visited Matlakeng Clinic and Embekweni Hospital.

Matlakeng Clinic caters for a population of 14 091 patients – 1 758 of whom are on anti-retroviral treatment. The clinic operates for eight hours a day with after-hours patients being referred to Embekweni Hospital.

The delegation was however happy to hear that the clinic’s medicinal stock was always over 90 percent and that they have a dietician and a sonar machine with a trained operator onsite.

Other services provided regularly at the clinic include oral health (five days a week) and a medical doctor (four times a week). A dietician is available two days a week at the clinic and does community outreach on the other three days. The ambulance call centre is centralised but each town has its own ambulance.

The delegation was also told that HIV-positive babies treated at the clinic were mostly born in Lesotho or Sterkspruit and they have a 100 percent participation in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the virus by their pregnant mothers living with the virus.

The clinic experiences minor challenges mainly with regard to maintenance and occasional vandalism but no serious life-threatening incidents.

Staff here do not have air conditioners and there are no employees to clean or maintain the garden, the delegation observed. With small maintenance jobs like fixing taps, they are assisted by Embekweni Hospital.

Unfortunately, two break-ins at the clinic this year have resulted in the manager’s computers being stolen.

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