President should commit to fixing broken health system - Siviwe Gwarube

DA MP says Ramaphosa's SONA did not provide a plan to provide quality healthcare for the people

President Ramaphosa should commit to fixing broken health system

25 June 2019

Madam Speaker,

On Thursday night we watched with great anticipation as the President delivered his State of the Nation Address.

In truth the speech was big on dreamy rhetoric and thin on much-needed details.

More concerningly was the absence of a plan to provide quality healthcare for our people.

Madam Speaker, each of us in this House is familiar with the deep despair and helplessness which comes with sickness.

It is at those times that nothing is scarier than being dependent on a health system that has been neglected for decades and has been systematically unravelling at the seams.

The reality is that millions of South Africans are too familiar with that scenario.

Several weeks ago, I too was reminded of the importance of the work that we do here.

I lost a family member who was still in his prime following a short illness.

His death impressed upon me why we need to improve the quality of healthcare in this country, not just for our family members, but for the people who rely of this government service.

The millions of South Africans who have no other choice but to surrender themselves to an over-burdened heath system are the people that the DA is fighting for.

Mr President, your address on the health system of our country was simply not good enough.

There are urgent commitments that South Africa requires from you when you respond to this debate tomorrow.

Firstly, fixing the broken health system.

That requires an honest reflection about what has gone wrong in the health sector of our country.

Speaker, the DA unequivocally supports universal healthcare for our people.

However, in doing so we cannot destroy the economy, risk a brain drain and rampant corruption.

The Presidential Health Summit last year was simply an admission that there are deep inequalities when it comes to access to health.

This is a known fact.

The gap between those who have healthcare coverage and those who rely on the public health sector is huge.

However, this is because of decades of neglect and poor policies by the ANC government.

The rural Eastern Cape where I come from is visual representation of failure by this government.

Nothing works.

Dedicated and hard-working healthcare professionals are thrown into areas that have not seen delivery in decades.

These are men and women who want to serve but are hamstrung by the unavailability of medicine, crumbling infrastructure and no medical equipment.

In KZN thousands of patients died due to the oncology crisis which the ANC’s nominated chairperson for the health committee, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo presided over.

Yes, the rising cost of private healthcare needs to be addressed and this can be regulated by using existing legislation such as the Medical Schemes Act.

However, the fact that pregnant women who use our health facilities are taking a gamble with their lives, is something that the ANC government needs to accept responsibility for.

The fact that the elderly are tied to chairs waiting for medical care as was done in Mamelodi Hospital is entirely on this government.

The fact that there is a lack of access to reproductive healthcare that leads to young women resorting to backstreet abortions and children under 5 die annually due to poor living conditions is an absolute indictment on this executive.

The National Health Insurance as it stands premises its entire existence on the need to level the field of access.

It does not seek to improve the existing health facilities and level of care.

NHI, in its current form will nationalise healthcare.

We cannot allow a piece of legislation that has neither been costed nor effectively planned for destroy the little that we have.

The DA will oppose this bill until it places the patient at the centre of its conception.

We trust that the newly appointment Minister, Zweli Mkhize, will begin working on the basics.

Some of our healthcare facilities are death-zones.

Abantu bethu Speaker bangena ezibhedlele bekhangela uncedo baphume ngeebhokisi.

Eyonanto abantu abayifunayo kungena kwizibhedlele nee-clinic bafumane oonesi noogqirha aboneleyo.

Abantu bakhangela urhulumente ozokuqinisekisa ukuba abantu abadala abafiki ngoo 4 ekuseni balinde imini yonke baphinde bahambe bengancedwanga.

Kwizibhedle zethu, Iintsana ziyabiwa, izinto zokuxilonga azikho, kwaye nezo-clinic ziyawa kuba azihoyekanga.

Mphathiswa nawe Mongameli aninoze nivume intsapho zenu ziyokufumana uncedo kwizibhedle zethu kuba niyayazi imeko ezikuyo.

Nibayekela njani abantu abasonyulileyo baphatheke ngoluhlobo?

Madam Speaker, the President should use the opportunity tomorrow to assure the families who lost loved ones in the Life Esidimeni tragedy that they will receive their compensation.

In addition, the President should ensure that the people who were responsible for the death of hundreds of mentally ill patients are held to account.

Those who are guilty- both politicians and officials- must be fired and they must be held criminally liable for having played upuca with the lives of the most vulnerable.

The fact that Qedani Mahlangu is still embraced in the ANC and enjoys a leadership position is an indictment on you and your organisation, Mr President.

Madam Speaker, the problems that we face as a country are not insurmountable.

They can be resolved but they require us to go back to the basics of good governance like the DA has in the Western Cape.

When we come to this House and share the success stories of the DA, it is not in an effort to brag but to bring solutions to the table.

In the Western Cape we serve over 75% of the province’s population who rely on public healthcare- but the health outcomes and standards are objectively better than any other province in the country.

This is easily confirmed by the fact that we have the highest life expectancy for both men and women.

This is because we have used a combination of innovation, political will and commitment to the people.

Most critically, since the DA took over this government in 2009 we have invested over R6 billion on infrastructure and maintenance of health facilities.

This means we built new hospitals and clinics, ambulance stations and upgraded existing ones.

This investment means we have drastically improved patient experience.

To manage waiting times and critical medication stockouts, we have invested in two major innovations.

We have a central depot that manages the stock of medicines for the province.

This is why when the national department of health bungled the tender to supply ARVs a couple of weeks ago, in this province we managed the crisis better because of effective planning.

In addition, the Western Cape is the only province which is at the advanced stages of digitalizing patient records.

Kweli iphondo abantu abazukulinda imini yonke kuba ifolder zabo zingafumaneki.

Speaker, the critical point to be made here is that if the DA can do this in the Western Cape, it is possible to do it across the country.

Mr President, we do not need any more summits, symposiums or imbizos, we need this government to do its work.

Failing which, we will hold you accountable.

We will ring the bell on corruption.

We will demand better healthcare for the people of this country.

We will fight against the disastrous NHI and put forward a credible plan that will bring about universal healthcare without placing the fate of all South Africans in the hands of the politically connected few.

The DA will never neglect our constitutional obligations.

The people of South Africa deserve nothing less.

Issued by Siviwe Gwarube, DA Shadow Minister of Health, 25 June 2019