The TAC says they want to be part of the solution to save public healthcare in Gauteng from collapse.
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has given Gauteng premier David Makhura and the Gauteng MEC for health, Nomathemba Mokgethi, six weeks to address their grievances conveyed in their memorandum submitted Friday last week. Then, Makhura’s economic adviser, Dumisani Dakile, received the memorandum on the premier’s behalf.
Central to the issues the TAC is raising is the reopening of the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, which burned in April this year. Its closure has overburdened other hospitals in the province and has led to the system nearing collapse.
The health lobby group claims that over 150 medical professionals, including doctors, nurses and clinicians have resigned from Gauteng’s public hospitals citing workload and pressure among their reasons for leaving.
Following the march last Friday, where TAC was snubbed by both Makhura and the MEC, the organisation turned up the heat this week and took to the streets of Johannesburg again on Tuesday. With hundreds of their members, they sang and stomped in front of the premier’s office. A brown casket was carried by the demonstrators to represent those who have died due to the poor health services in the province.
Makhura and the MEC pulled a no-show again, but TAC vowed to spend the whole week outside his office until he comes and listens to them. His media liaison officer said the premier was in Sedibeng in the Vaal attending to the vaccination of farmworkers in the area. His office was closed by members of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD).
The TAC protesters braved the cold Joburg weather and spent two nights outside the office. On Wednesday, they erected a tent while waiting on word that they will meet the health head of the department, Dr Sibongile Zungu, on Thursday. The tent was destroyed by the JMPD that evening.
Speaking to Elitsha, TAC secretary general Anele Yawa said, “I am glad we finally met with them. They have responded to the issues we raised, as we went over them together on a point to point basis. We have agreed that they must set up a team from the premier’s office and from the MEC’s office. Two members of TAC will also be part of the team, they will visit all clinics and hospitals in Gauteng. Only after this process has concluded, then we can meet and discuss the problems.”
Yawa said the team is set to meet next week. “We want to hit the ground running. Because we only have six weeks to attend to the issues and do a report back. We will reconvene again to get feedback on findings and possible solutions on identified problems after the six weeks. They must make unannounced visits to these sites to see the issues. They will be assessing the conditions in these hospitals and talking to the health users in those facilities. Because people have a tendency of covering their tracks if they are told in advance,” he said.
TAC chairperson, Sibongile Tshabalala, was disappointed that in a month set aside for women, they were the ones being ignored by the government. “Women get insulted in these clinics when they go for medical attention. Some women are forced to give birth on the floors of these public hospitals. Women are denied their right to terminate pregnancies in a safe manner because the health department has closed this service in many hospitals. We are the ones who bear the brunt of a poor and dysfunctional health system and now it is enough,” she said.