The public healthcare system is very distressed, but not collapsing – Motsoaledi

Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has dismissed claims that the public health sector is on the verge of collapse. He did, however, concede that the healthcare system is very distressed.

Motsoaledi was responding Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba's comment during an eNCA interview over the weekend that many Life Esidimenis were taking place across the country.

Speaking at a media briefing in Tshwane on Tuesday, Motsoaledi said the burden of disease in South Africa had led the demand of healthcare to grow exponentially, leaving the system "extremely overloaded".

"This has resulted in very long waiting times in most of the facilities and lowering of quality in others," he added.

He said the "explosion" of diabetes, blood pressure and cancer had added to the problem.

"The battle of disease is too high. We need to put measures in to reduce it."

Motsoaledi added that they were aware of poor management and negative staff attitudes in most government hospitals and that a plan had been put in place to manage these issues.

"We are painfully aware of poor or lack of management skills in most of our hospitals. We are also aware of the negative attitudes of some staff members in quite a number of our facilities."

"As from today, we are deploying 200 officials from the head office to all our provinces to go directly into hospitals and help with management."

He said those deployed would include managers, doctors and nurses.

The minister also said some shortages were caused by sectors, such as those in the North West, but by the end of the June, 223 vacancies will be filled at the cost of R150m, the minister said.

READ: Turnaround strategy for North West health dept welcomed

He said Gauteng also had issues with staff numbers and added that they could not afford to not fill vacant posts.

"We have the biggest problem of human resources, which we cannot deny. After all, sub-Saharan Africa carries 80% of all infectious diseases in the world but has only 3% of human resources. We are not exempted from that as South Africa."

"Huge numbers of people coming to healthcare facilities and low numbers of staff working at them, that is a crisis. But it's not a collapse."

Dismissing claims that the health system was on the verge of total collapse, Motsoaledi said they were still providing HIV treatment for 4.2 million people, were able to treat 300 000 TB patients, and were able to take care of more than one million pregnant women.

"In 2004, a total of 70 000 babies were born HIV positive. The figure has dropped to below 4 500 now."

Additionally, the TB mortality rate has fallen by 50%, from 69 251 deaths in 2009, to 33 063 in 2015, said Motsoaledi.

"We do not then think that a collapsing or collapsed system [would] be able to do these."

"Yes, we accept and are very worried about extreme overcrowding in our hospitals and we believe that it could have been much worse if we did not take proactive steps."

Motsoaledi also rubbished claims that public healthcare facilities had run out of medicine.

He said weekly monitoring of stock, found that ARVs, vaccines and TB medication in all provinces have not dropped below 75%.

In dealing with the radiation oncology backlogs in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, the minister said a programme would be launched in August and that the two provinces will each receive R50m.

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