16 August 2012

South Africa: TAC Demands Better Health Services

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in Gauteng says it will take the Health Department to court to force them to deliver quality health care to the citizens of the province should they fail to do so.

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) says it will not allow health care services in Gauteng to deteriorate any further. Provincial Secretary, Andrew Mosane, says the province must meet its mandate to deliver quality health care to the people.

"We have lack of medicines in our health care facilities and the vigour to finalise appointments and critical posts of health care workers, the reduced capacity of the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), and also the shortage of essential drugs, nationally. There is no plan from the department as to how will they curb these shortages", Mosane says.

He says health care is a basic human right and the activist group will not rest until the health department meets its obligations.

"We made them aware that if this is not rectified we will litigate and take (the) legal way. As people living with HIV, we need access to drugs. We have the right to access to health care facilities, including drugs as we are protected by the Constitution. We are not going to stop until they give us that access to drugs - not only ARVs, but essential medicines - including vaccines for children".

Despite assurances by the provincial Health Department that drug shortages have been addressed, the TAC maintains that there is still a shortage of drugs in many health facilities, according to its provincial chairperson, Sibongile Tshabalala.

"When we do our assessments, since June to now, it shows that drug unavailability is worse than before. People are still given five pills a week and the patient must return next week. What if a person is working and they didn't disclose their status at work? Every week they are collecting medication. This also becomes difficult for those taking taxis because if you don't have money, it means you won't get treatment. Surprisingly, our new MEC said there will be 80% medicine. I find it impossible... maybe at the depots... but it won't reflect that way in the health facilities", says Tshabalala.

The Democratic Alliance in Gauteng agrees with the TAC that drug shortages are still an ongoing problem that needs urgent attention.

"There are still reports of medicine shortages, which is totally unacceptable. And, sometimes it is a national tender problem out of the control of the provincial department. But, all too often, it has been a total mess at the medical supplies depot. I think competent people must be put in (as) soon as possible and get the systems right. I still get stories of a basic drug like insulin not (being) available. And we must get ARVs available at all times because it is very dangerous if HIV patients don't get their medicine on time", says the party's spokesperson on Health, Jack Bloom.

Bloom adds that the department needs to get proper systems in place to ensure that suppliers are paid on time so that there is a consistent supply of medicines and other health essentials.

"There is a long process because there has been a lot of damage over the years just purely in terms of paying suppliers. All companies should be paid within 30 days. The new MEC must re-establish the credibility of the department".

Meanwhile, Gauteng Health MEC, Hope Papo, says his department is committed to improving health care in the province. He says this begins with a committed staff.

"It is not possible that one person can fix it. We have the head of department and the 64 000-plus employees of the department who can make the difference. If they are effectively managed, they can do well... and the rogues in the department are dealt with effectively using the mechanisms of discipline within the department", Papo says.

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