The prolonged closure of Charlotte Maxeke Hospital during a pandemic has pushed the healthcare system closer to collapse.
Health advocacy group, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), says it wants Gauteng premier, David Makhura, to take immediate action to save a collapsing department of health in the province.
About 100 members of TAC marched from Beyers Naudé Square in Johannesburg to the premier’s office in Newtown on Friday. However, the premier and Gauteng health MEC, Nomathemba Mokgethi, didn’t show up. The protesters left a memorandum of demands in Makhura’s office.
Among the issues raised by TAC is Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, which has been largely closed since it burned in April this year. They are concerned about Makhura’s inaction in reopening the hospital. TAC demands that it be fully opened as soon as possible, as its closure continues to overburden other hospitals in the province.
Gauteng MEC for infrastructure, Tasneem Motara told the Gauteng legislature last week that it will take until 2023 to re-open some of the fire damaged sections of the hospital.
One of their grievances is the closure of hospitals offering termination of pregnancy services, despite indications from the department of health that they were available. “TAC in Gauteng has started engaging in monitoring and we found out that the two hospitals on the list that we visited did not offer the services stipulated. We demand that the Department of Health ensure that termination of pregnancy services (ToP) are adequately available in order for women to be able to access affordable, safe and quality services,” reads the memorandum.
The organisation also demands that the premier and health MEC ensure that the decisions of the Life Esidimeni arbitration process are adhered to. “As instructed by retired former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke in his report, the provincial government was meant to enact a monument at its own cost within twelve months (June 2019) to the mental healthcare users. Three years later we sadly have not seen it. We demand that this memorialisation be completed as soon as possible,” said TAC.
TAC general secretary, Anele Yawa said, “We are tired of writing emails and letters and getting ignored in the process. Makhura must go to the ground and talk to the people that voted him into power. I wish for one day, all these officials to cancel their medical aids and go queue in the community clinics early in the morning, to feel what our masses are feeling on a daily basis. We need no more lip service but accountable leaders that will address our angry and frustrated people.”
National chairperson of TAC, Sbongile Tshabalala, said the no-show of the premier was proof of how the government doesn’t value the people: “Both the premier and the MEC for health, Nomathemba Mokgethi, knew that we were coming today. And they didn’t tell us in advance of their unavailability because of a funeral. We have lost our family members because of the collapsing health system in Gauteng. Since 2012, we have been asking for this to be fixed – these pleas fall on deaf ears.”
“The government is failing hospital staff in this province; our files as healthcare users are missing everyday. As women, we go through the worst humiliation while trying to access healthcare services. And to be honest, we will see what happened in Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in other hospitals too. It’s just a matter of time. We are saying it is enough now and we cannot take it anymore. Makhura must not ignore us, because we are going to vote very soon. If it continues this way, we would rather sit down and not vote” said Tshabalala.
Economic advisor in the premier’s office, Dumisani Dakile was listening to the protesters’ grievances on the premier’s behalf and assured them that he would relay their message to the premier. “The issue of turning around the department of health is our priority. The Gauteng health department is seriously having a stability issue currently. All I can promise is that we will need to start a process of trying to attend to the issues that the system is facing. If the majority of our people are not happy with the service, then it means something is being done wrong,” said Dakile.
He said Guateng’s hospital infrastructure is seriously old and dilapidated. “Some hospitals are very old, truly speaking, and their infrastructure is ailing. We have a serious shortage of doctors and nurses as well. We need to work together and figure out how we can systematically fix these issues,” he said.
This is not the end of protest action. TAC has promised to lead a march to the premier’s office on Tuesday.