MEC dismisses DA claims

2009-10-14 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL MEC for Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo has dismissed figures that 400 babies have died due to infant mortality at Durban’s Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital this year. The MEC said 84 babies have died at the hospital.

Dhlomo told journalists during the department’s measles awareness campaign at the Nichols Primary School in Pietermaritzburg yesterday that the figures given by Democratic Alliance MPL George Mari on Monday are incorrect.

He said the allegation is an extraploation from information given for the 12 months up to January 2009.

“The total number of deliveries during this period is 5 536.

“The total number of deaths in maternity services ... and macerated births as from January to September 2009 is 154,” said Dhlomo.

Last year, the death rate for Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital during the same period was 44 per 1000 babies, including those born weighing less than a kilogram.

Dhlomo and his departmental officials, including department head Dr Sibongile Zungu, also visited schools in Edendale.

They assessed pupils’ health and raised awareness about measles and other highly infectious viral diseasessuch as H1N1, the so-called swine flu.

The assessments were from head to toe. The children were checked on oral health, vision, mental health, speech and hearing. Children who may have missed out on immunisation were identified.

Dhlomo and his head of department, Dr Sibongile Zungu, came out to show their support for the week-long campaign was co-ordinated by the Health Department in collaboration with the Education Department and various stakeholders and is driven with the intention of extending existing school health services. About 240 schools are expected to be visited by the end of the week.

Addressing the media, Dhlomo said that while programmes promoting school health are not new but are part of an ongoing project, he said it is important for the programmes to reach every school since households headed by granparents are becoming prevalent.

“If we can identify high-risk diseases and that can be done in every school, it will help us drastically bring down fatalities, which is what we are trying to do.”

Speaking to his young audience, he warned against drug use or selling drugs and told pupils to listen to parents, teachers and guardians.

“Avoid things that will harm you. If your parents tell you not to get into strangers’ cars and they tell you to go straight home after school, it is for your own good.”

School principal Nonhlanhla Chonco said she feels proud that her school was launched as a health promotion school in 2006 by the then MEC of Health, Peggy Nkonyeni, and they have been able to maintain those standards through various programmes. This includes the Adopt-a-Child project and Operation Fudumala, which Dhlomo applauded.

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