Minister Mkhize confirms Eastern Cape will not be placed under administration to save lives
22 July 2020
Note to Editors: Please find attached English soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP, DA Shadow Minister of Health.
This morning the Health Portfolio Committee received a presentation from the Eastern Cape Department of Health on the crisis that is unfolding in the province regarding its health system incapacity.
This engagement with the province has proven that over and above the surge that is being experienced, the health system and those in leadership positions in the province, are out of their depth.
This admission was particularly concerning considering that the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has confirmed in a letter to me that he will not be instituting a section 100 intervention by placing the province under administration.
The reason that Minister Mkhize gives for his refusal to urgently intervene in the province is that all provinces are experiencing challenges and have had to have their efforts augmented. This he argues without an honest admission that the Eastern Cape provincial health system is deeply compromised and broken.
This cannot be compared with the strength of the health system in the Western Cape or even Gauteng. The only way we can begin to save lives is to place the Eastern Cape Department of Health under national management in the strictest possible terms. We need quick turnaround strategies that will arrest the free-fall that the province is in. This needs to be done without the constant political considerations that are being made at the expense of lives.
The provincial team has painted a dire picture of the provincial health system. The province only still has one functioning donated field hospital which is operating at half the capacity in Nelson Mandela Bay; there is shortage of life-saving oxygen tanks in many parts of the province; there are rural districts in the province which have zero critical care beds; there are massive staff shortages and unfilled critical posts and the province is battling to meet the bed capacity demand. Many of the plans which were presented this morning are measures which will only be implemented at future dates, despite the rising numbers of infections and fatalities.
Already, a national response unit has started to work with the provincial health teams to drive results in the key crisis areas. However, if this team is not empowered by a Constitutional provision that places a provincial department under administration, it will be rendered useless by the political jostling.
Minister Mkhize needs to act quickly and make the difficult decisions which place the interests and lives of South Africans above political considerations. If he does not have the courage to do this, thousands will lose their lives and any intervention will not in any way aid the situation. Crises like these cannot be dealt with on the basis of what is politically expedient. Saving lives must be the number one priority.
Issued by Siviwe Gwarube,DA Shadow Minister of Health, 22 July 2020