Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane has used his state of the province address on Tuesday to thank the health workers who have been at the forefront in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking at the provincial legislature in Bhisho, Mabuyane called on the community to be vaccinated in the programme led by government and not listen to people spreading untruths about the vaccine.
“On behalf of the provincial government and the people of the Eastern Cape, let me extend our gratitude to our healthcare workers who have been in the frontline of combating the Covid-19 against all odds.
“We were faced with a virus that has never surfaced on our shores. However, we have done well in reducing the burden of the disease on our lives and livelihoods. We managed to do this through the implementation of our Covid-19 response strategy, which was aimed at containing the virus, investing in sustainable solutions, protecting the vulnerable and the poor, and rejuvenating the provincial economy,” he said.
Mabuyane said government invested R590.4 million in the refurbishment of 67 health facilities across the province which will remain a great legacy even post Covid-19.
Through the investment, the government now has new high care units in health facilities and areas that did not have them before. Oxygen infrastructure in health facilities that never had such capacity before having also been installed. The premier also warned of a likelihood of a Covid-19 third wave if the Eastern Cape population becomes complacent.
“We are not out of the woods yet, and in fact, we may very well be hit by a third wave. The virus is still dangerous, particularly when we still have 544 active cases, which is the lowest in the country,” he said.
He said that the Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine has arrived in the province and that the vaccine roll-out programme was underway and has started with health workers in Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha and Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth.
Mabuyane was confident the province would vaccinate 3.7 million people, the minimum required to achieve population herd immunity.
“To achieve this target, we must work together to ensure that our people get vaccinated to prevent severe disease, hospitalisation and deaths,” he said.
Government’s focus was on strengthening healthcare systems and improving the quality of service offerings following the norms and standards of health facilities. To this extent, 145 clinics and four health centres qualified as ideal facilities.
“As much as we have been engaged in the fight against Covid-19, we have not lost focus on the other communicable and non-communicable diseases. In this regard, we are accelerating the implementation of the 90-90-90 strategy for HIV/Aids, TB, cancer and non-communicable diseases.
“The Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital is expanding its sub-specialist services for oncology, urology, cardiology, ear and nose, orthopaedic and advanced imaging and diagnostic services to provide super speciality services for the people of the Eastern Cape,” he said.
The national department of health has uplifted the development of the academic and super speciality platform for the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital to establish a centre of excellence for advanced surgical procedures such as cochlear implants, penile reconstruction, and advance cardiology imaging and surgical procedures.
The Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital has successfully implemented 22 cochlear implants that have made children hear for the first time, reconstructed, and restored 52 penile amputations and provided ongoing cardiac repairs using modern cardiac interventions.
Mabuyane also took a swipe at corrupt officials who are doing business with the state. He said to achieve all the priorities set out by government, they have to focus on building a capable, ethical and the developmental state as an institutional foundation critical to the task of growing the Eastern Cape.
“In strengthening the fight against corruption, we have consolidated the anti-corruption forum and council into one body that will be chaired by the premier.
“Since the passing of the law prohibiting government officials from doing business with government our province has progressed from 1 272 conflicted officials in 2018/2019 to 421 in 2020/2021.
“The majority of the remaining 421 officials are in health and education. We are expecting the relevant accounting officers to take action against the remaining officials that are still doing business with the state,” said Mabuyane.
Meanwhile, cannabis remains on government’s radar for economic growth and job creation.
The premier said government’s medium-term strategic goal was to establish five cannabis production corridors focusing on creating a value chain for medicine, fibre, fuel and food.
“The bill on the use of cannabis for private purposes is currently being considered by the National Assembly. Government is also working on the commercialisation of hemp and we are pleased to announce that hemp has been de-scheduled from the restrictive schedules of the medicines and related substances act of 1965 and this paves the way for hemp to be declared as an agricultural crop.”
Mabuyane also praised the last year’s matric pupils for their hard work during an unprecedented year in which the pandemic disrupted teaching and learning. He also acknowledged the leadership provided by the late Themba Kojana, the education department head who died last year.
The Eastern Cape achieved a pass rate of 68.1%. I want to commend the class of 2020 for their perseverance under extremely difficult conditions caused by the Covid-19. Despite the national and provincial overall decline of the pass rate, the Eastern Cape class of 2020 still achieved a better quality of results.
“Let me also congratulate our best performing provincial candidates who received ministerial awards last night [Monday], namely, Reynhardt Buys from Pearson High School [in Port Elizabeth], who is also the top achiever in the country and Simamkele Bongo from Xolilizwe High School [in Idutywa}, who is a top achiever in the country in the historically disadvantaged school category,” said Mabuyane.