by Isak Fritz, MPL – DA NC Spokesperson of Health
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Date: 30 May 2018
The main challenges at Kimberley Hospital, from a shortage of doctors to a shortage of toilet paper, are the direct result of the over-centralisation of power by the Northern Cape Department of Health.
This is what came to light during my oversight inspection at Kimberley Hospital (KH) yesterday, with DA MPLs Andrew Louw and Harold McGluwa. See photo here.
Over the years, the number of nurses at the hospital has more than halved, from approximately 1000 nurses to only 450 nurses currently employed at the tertiary facility. As a result, doctors are, in many instances, forced to take on nursing duties. Medical officers themselves are in short supply at KH, not to mention medical specialists. This, however, is not for a lack of interest in working at KH.
The real problem is the recruitment process, which, aside from being “embargoed”, is nothing less than an administrative nightmare.
Appointment processes are so delayed that, by the time the department actually gives its stamp of approval, which can be many months down the line, applicant health professionals have long since been hired in other provinces. In this way, Kimberley Hospital is losing out on the services of obstetricians, psychiatrists, gynaecologists and more, as well as specialists willing to work on a session basis at KH.
No nursing auxiliaries have been recruited for two and a half years. Meanwhile, a dire shortage of nurses has caused theatre time to be cut. ICU, which should have a nurse patient ratio of 1:1, experiences a ratio of 1:4, significantly compromising quality of care.
Centralization not only affects staff appointments but has also resulted in ineffective supply chain management.
Procurement is done at the provincial office, which is out of touch with the actual needs of KH. This results in out of stocks of basic supplies, such as toilet paper. It often also results in the purchase of inferior supplies, such as surgical gloves that tear before they are even put on. In addition, unnecessary supplies are purchased, such as enough amniotic hooks to service the whole country – this is just plain wasteful.
Centralisation has distorted the whole health economy in the province. If KH is to continue as a Tertiary Hospital, then it is essential that powers of appointment and procurement must, to a certain extent, be devolved back to KH management.
In the DA-led Western Cape, when a health post is vacated at hospitals, management is empowered to fill it without going through a lengthy process. This is what is needed in the Northern Cape too. Kimberley Hospital should be able to make critical appointments within five minutes, not five months.
The DA will engage with Health MEC, Fufe Makatong, regarding the urgent delegation of particularly HR and SCM powers back to KH. Given the health department’s overall dire financial state, we understand Makatong’s desire to be cautious. Caution, however does not equate to micromanagement, which is known to hinder innovation and growth.
Only Change led by a DA government in 2019 will ensure that the people of the province can enjoy health services that are underpinned by a continuous supply of medical resources, and also a well-staffed team of health professionals.
Isak Fritz, MPL
DA NC Spokesperson of Health
083 395 2737
Shelley De Witt
082 847 1387