Health facilities in Limpopo are crumbling: TAC

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Members of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in Limpopo have embarked on a march to the provincial Health Department offices in Polokwane.

TAC says health facilities in the province, particularly rural clinics, are crumbling.

The shortage of ARV’s and HIV testing kits, especially in the Vhembe and Mopani Districts was highlighted as a major challenge. Other challenges include overcrowding, limited resource and shortage of staff.

TAC members marched through the streets of Polokwane carrying placards with messages such as “Broken health system equals death” and “Limpopo health crisis.”

They have complained against what they call the critical state of the provincial health care system.

Rural hospitals and clinics are said to be the hardest hit. TAC provincial chairperson Helen Nkuna read out the contents of the memorandum.

She says they have visited various hospitals in Vhembe and Mopani following complaints from community members:

“The health system in Limpopo is broken. It is on life support and in critical need of resuscitation. Each day we hear reports of collapse, pain, indignity, loss, shock and grief. We have received numerous complaints and reports of system failure which have dire consequences for patients. Our own monitoring in recent months at facilities across Mopani and Vhembe districts confirm the extent of this crisis.”

Nkuna says they have uncovered serious problems that need the department’s attention:

“Facilities are dangerously overcrowded. There are too few doctors and nurses. Inferior filing systems mean people wait excessive numbers of hours to be seen. On-going medicine stock out and shortages of HIV testing kits and other medical supplies persists. Public health buildings are in disrepair. Some lack safe running water, equipment is aged, broken and sometimes missing.”

Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba accepted the memorandum. She has denied that there is a shortage of ARV’s in the province.

Ramathuba blames managers running facilities that turn away patients who need ARV’s, for not ordering more stock from the provincial depot.

“Anyone who goes to a clinic or a hospital and doesn’t find ARV’s, the problem is not Dr Ramathuba, the problem is that clinical manager, it’s that hospital’s CEO, because we can go to the pharmaceutical depot today, now. There is no shortage of ARV’s in Limpopo. The problem is those people who are managing our facilities, who are not ordering the medicine and I’m glad that the chairperson has given me the names of those clinics. I will act on them.”

She has also assured TAC that the shortage of the HIV test kits has been attended to.

“The issue of the test kits. We had a challenge. When national came up with a new policy. That transition period from the first of April, they did not prepare the company which was taking over, because that tender is not controlled by us. The tender was controlled nationally. However what we did was we went to Gauteng, they gave us the stock. The stock that you are currently using in our clinics, we have been given by other provinces. We acted swiftly and made sure we make plans that you do have those test kits and we were promised by national that this thing will never happen.”

Ramathuba has promised to respond accordingly and where possible, to immediately address issues that need urgent attention.