Not all doom and gloom in health sector

2013-05-19 14:00

When Aaron Motsoaledi stood up to deliver his budget speech in Parliament this week, it was clear there are steady hands on the tiller of the all-important South African health sector.

The health minister has quietly championed a sea change in how business is done when it comes to managing his massive, critical portfolio.

Just think, before Motsoaledi and Barbara Hogan’s brief stint, the national department of health was widely regarded as one of the government’s brattiest problem children.

But things have changed, and now when the health minister speaks, he commands the respect of his colleagues in Cabinet, as well as that of departmental officials, ordinary employees in hospitals and clinics – and, crucially, civil society, which were utterly alienated by the late Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the former health minister.

It’s not all rosy, of course.

Motsoaledi didn’t mince his words about the poor quality of healthcare in the public sector.

It was very different from the sort of speech that was delivered before he came into office in 2009 – there was no defensiveness, just a steady plan of action.

Motsoaledi also offered hope, suggesting it was not all doom and gloom.

He told members of Parliament that South Africans’ life expectancy has increased in recent years thanks to the massive roll-out of antiretroviral treatment, which saw the number of people accessing these life-prolonging drugs double in the past two years.

The days of high-level, public Aids denialism, it seems, are well and truly over. This can only be good news in a country that still has a mountain to climb in fighting the pandemic.

The government needs to be criticised when it fails citizens. But equally, when public servants like Motsoaledi and the team he hailed in his budget speech for their hard work get it right, it’s important to give credit where credit’s due.

So good work, minister, and we’ll keep watching.

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