1 February 2013

South Africa: The Ministerial Task Team Report On George Masebe Hospital Confirms Our Contention That the Health Department Has a Management Crisis

NEHAWU welcomes the findings of the Ministerial Task Team that was investigating the situation at the George Masebe Hospital in Limpopo following the death of four babies. The report released by Minister Aaron Motsoledi corroborates our assertions that lax management systems and incompetence at the management level were to blame for the crisis.The task team discovered that medical doctors were taking unauthorized leave and were also reporting late for work. It also found out that they were not signing the attendance register. This poor management of the leave systems and the shoddy management of staff members points to negligence and incompetence on the side of the management. The fact that babies had to die before this was discovered is a sign that the health system has a management crisis. We demand that all those found to have acted negligently be made to account.

We however totally disagree with the report where it says that staff shortages did not play a role in the crisis because our members experience these shortages on a daily basis. It is an indisputable fact that our staffing ratios in hospitals are inadequate and George Masebe Hospital is no exception. Understaffing cannot be underestimated because we know that it creates a toxic working environment with workers feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work especially during holiday season.

NEHAWU is concerned that when investigating incidents of this nature ;there is a tendency not to take a holistic approach to health problems, but to look for scapegoats. It is always easy to blame staff members when scandalous events take place in hospitals. While sometimes these anecdotes are common place and have merit; we need to dig a little deeper to understand what is really happening in the health sector. At face value it seems justified to point fingers at the doctors but it is also a presumption to believe that they are reckless and couldn’t be bothered with the plight of the patients.

This deduction may not only be misleading, but it may also divert our attention away from interrogating the underlying causes giving rise to this unsatisfactory state of affairs. There is a need for the speedy implementation of the Human Resource for Health Strategy {HRH SA} 2030 plan. We need to produce more health professionals in particular doctors. They must be of a calibre that understands the primary health needs of the country and will are able work within the primary care level, in particular the health care needs of our rural communities. In many countries we have seen nurses working together with community health workers to turn around the high levels of disease burden.

Our union also calls on the Minister of Health and parliament to expedite the legislation process that will lead to the implementation of the establishment of the office of health standards compliance. This will assist in the supervision of health facilities.

This cycle of a perennial crisis in the health sector is not acceptable and not sustainable. As the leading public sector union in South Africa, NEHAWU is committed to working together with the health stakeholders on a public service delivery campaign. We all have a responsibility to ensure that communities that are dependent on the public health sector receive the quality services they deserve.

Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Office

For further information, please contact: Jacob Adams {NEHAWU Provincial Secretary} @082 558 5966 or Mike Shingange {NEHAWU Provincial Chairperson @ 082 455 2485

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