Provided for by the National Health Act, clinic committees are comprised of members of the public as well as facility staff.
Nominated by the community, members are officials appointed by provincial departments of health to ensure community participation in the governance of local clinics.
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and Soweto clinic committee members allege that in 2012 Gauteng Health MEC Hope Papo committed to introducing stipends for these committees in an effort to improve their performance.
Three years later Soweto clinic committees say that not only has the Gauteng Department of Health failed to introduce stipends but has also failed to approve clinic committee nominations submitted three years ago.
“Hope Papo promised to make appointments of clinic committees and that failed,” said Falatsi Mphuthi, clinic committee chairperson for Soweto’s Mofolo Clinic. “We are currently waiting for the current MEC to release the names of appointments.”
According to Mphuthi, committees have been told to operate as less formal “steering committees” as the department processes new clinic committee candidates following a March call for new nominations.
Itireleng Clinic Committee member Johannes Mazembe in Soweto says his clinic has yet to receive nomination forms.
Field researcher Patrick Mdleshe works for the public interest law organsation Section27. Mdleshe has called the three-year delay in clinic committee appointments unfair to clinics and community members.
According to Gauteng Department of Health Spokesperson Steve Mabona, Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu recently signed appointment letters for clinic committee nominees.
District health coordinators are now coordinating the process of notifying members prior to training. He blamed the delay in appointments on clinics’ inability to attract sufficient numbers of nominations to fill their five-member committees.
“It is true that Gauteng lagged behind in appointing the clinic committees and this has been largely due to that, at the time of calling for nomination, the majority clinics in all regions were unable to attract candidates in terms of both required numbers and those willing to serve,” he said.
Mabona added that the department would not be paying clinic committee members stipends.
Meanwhile, Mdleshe said he also hoped Premier David Makhura would put an end to the frequent changes in Health MECs that have plagued Gauteng in recent years.
Makhura recently met with the TAC regarding not only clinic appointments, but also ways to strengthen the committees, according to TAC Chairperson Sibongile Tshabalala.
The Gauteng Department of Health is currently conducting training for clinic committees to improve their functioning.