Chaos as Free State health inquiry is disrupted

2015-07-07 14:37
Hospital bed. (Shutterstock)

Hospital bed. (Shutterstock)

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Bloemfontein - Chaos broke out when the the People’s Commission of Inquiry into the Free State health system was disrupted for at least half an hour by a group of objectors on Tuesday.

Qua-Qua community member Lydia Mofokeng had just begun her testimony before the independent commission of inquiry when a man at the back of the Mabaleng Auditorium at the University of Free State protested against the proceedings.

The man, who identified himself only as Tebogo, insisted that the Department of Health be given the opportunity to respond to each of the testimonies made by community members about their experiences of the health care system in the province, as “the Treatment Action Campaign is not one of the biggest organisations in South Africa”.

Chaos ensued as people loudly objected to the interruption. Cries of “call out the SAP” echoed through the auditorium. TAC executive member Patrick Mdletshe confronted the man and asked him and a group of ten supporters to leave, but they refused.

“This is not an ANC meeting, this is a community meeting. I will not be intimidated,” Mdletshe said, before calling the campus security to remove the objectors.

The objectors eventually left the auditorium, but attendees were clearly upset and showed their dissatisfaction by chanting.

'Health crisis is bigger than politics'

“These objectors were undoubtedly planted in the auditorium,” FF+ member of the provincial legislature, Wouter Wessels, told News24.

“The ANC calls the opposition parties and organisations such as the TAC liars at every debate about the health system in the Free State. But now that members of the community are telling their stories of how they have lost loved ones due to incompetence and uncommitted staff, they have to resort to disruptions. It is sad because the health crisis is bigger than politics.”

DA member of the legislature, Mariette Pittaway, said it was clear to her that the objectors “were planted by the Department of Health”.

“It is sad that the good intentions of the TAC must suffer from these tactics. But we are used to it. When they are confronted with the truth, they resort to disruption.”

The ANC was invited to the commission, but had no official representative on Tuesday to comment on the disruption.

While the commission of inquiry has been organised by the Treatment Action Campaign, the commission itself acts independently.

The commission sits on Tuesday and Wednesday to hear the voices of healthcare providers and users of the healthcare system.

The commission consists of three commissioners: Bishop Paul Verryn, formerly of the Johannesburg Central Methodist Church, Thembeka Gwagwa, and Thokozile Madonko of the Alternative Information and Development Centre.

“The Free State health system has been in crisis for several years. This province faces more stockouts of essential medicines and supplies than any other province.

"Each day there are new reports of patients facing inadequate, often undignified and inhumane, and sometimes altogether suspended services,” TAC spokesperson Lotti Rutter said.

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