Free State health MEC Benny Malakoane says there were adequate supplies of medicines and consumables at regional hospitals across the province over the past year and assured the public that the department was working to ensure that the situation continues to improve.
Malakoane said the availability of supplies stood at over 95 percent over the year and was confident the health system would not collapse as predicted by some prophets of doom.
Delivering his 2016/17 budget vote speech at Lemostso Primary School in Welkom on Friday last week, Malakoane said it was disturbing that there were persistent media reports about the shortages of staff, medicines, medical consumables and non-functional equipment at some of the hospitals, particularly the Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein.
The MEC said the department never denied the fact that some referral centres such as Dihlabeng in Bethlehem, Mofumahadi Manapo Mopeli in Qwaqwa and Bongani in Welkom, which were all constructed more than 20 years ago, continue to face challenges of aging infrastructure.
He pointed out that despite the challenges, the department made huge strides in addressing the issues.
In October2015 the department experienced five neonatal deaths over a period of three days at Bongani Regional Hospital due to neonatal sepsis and prematurity contrary to media speculation which suggested negligence.
The MEC said following the unfortunate incidents, a team was dispatched to investigate and support the facility in instituting relevant interventions.
According to Malakoane, one of the key findings over and above the staff shortages was poor infection control practices by the visitors, parents and health care workers. He added that this was further compounded by inadequate infrastructure.
Regardless of these challenges, Malakoane said the neonatal mortality rate at Bongani hospital dropped from 31.5 per 1 000 in 2013 to 20.9 per 1 000 live births in 2015.
He said the department has since appointed a full-time paediatrician and 21 auxiliary nurses and the neonatal unit has been relocated to a more compliant space.
The office of health standards and compliance also carried out an independent investigation covering the entire hospital.
“We will focus on strengthening… services with major emphasis on recruitment and retention of specialists to outreach and support Level 1 hospitals. We shall prioritise the filling of critical clinical vacancies…” said Malakoane.