Health MEC Norman Mabasa. (Gallo)

Shot in the arm for ailing Limpopo

M&G correspondent
Few health professionals or administrators have the broad experience or the specialist knowledge of Dr Maphata Norman Mabasa.

Appointed the MEC for health and social development for Limpopo on March 14, he has just taken on one of the most challenging healthcare jobs in the country.

Apart from a litany of crippling problems, the department was placed under the control of the national finance department after massive overspending.

But, armed with a provincial health budget of nearly R12-billion, which is 26% of the province’s budget, Mabasa also has some major advantages on his side.

He was a general practitioner for 18 years and therefore has hands-on healthcare experience. He is highly respected in the private healthcare sector and, since 2008, was the chairperson of the South African Medical Association.

The association is a non-statutory, professional association of public and private sector medical practitioners. In other words, it is the union for doctors and specialists as well as the champion of patients.

After formally resigning from the association’s board, Mabasa received a unanimous vote of confidence. But the association’s loss is Limpopo’s gain.

Within a week of being in the job, he had already made an impact. In his budget speech for 2012-2013, he announced several new programmes and initiatives: stepping up vaccinations, enhancing the province’s capacity to control infectious diseases, reintroducing family planning services, reducing morbidity from coronary heart disease and strokes and upping the ante in the fight against tobacco.

Most notably, Mabasa is encouraging patients to make clinics their first point of call to shorten the excessively long queues at outpatient departments in public hospitals and advocates a primary healthcare policy of prevention as opposed to the curative approach.

He has increased the number of clinics offering a 24-hour service from 64 to 75 and the number of on-call system facilities from 357 to 368.

Moreover, Mabasa also announced the “re-engineering” of the province’s clinics by increasing the number of visits that doctors and health professionals make to them, the resupplying of clinics with quality equipment and medicines, and the recruiting and retraining retired professional nurses and community health workers to augment clinic staff.

He has pulled no punches in his comments about the dangers and cost of the stigma associated with HIV and Aids, which is preventing people from even being tested for the virus.

During the next 12 months, 300 000 inhabitants of Limpopo will be tested for HIV. Mabasa has also announced the distribution of 105-million male condoms and 630 000 Femidom female condoms.

On the cards, too, are plans to increase male medical circumcisions, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and the provision of antiretrovirals, especially as post-exposure prophylaxis, and the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission.

Being prioritised are new programmes for the treatment of tuberculosis, malaria and cholera and the implementation of National Health Insurance pilot projects in Limpopo.

With regard to the department’s chequered past, Mabasa announced that every rand spent by it would be accounted for. He said wasteful, fruitless and unauthorised expenditure would be eliminated, all the department’s assets would be guarded against any form of misuse and mismanagement, and that fraud and corruption would not be tolerated.

Coming from a person with the stature of Mabasa, there could not be a better prognosis for a provincial health department.

Dr Maphata Norman Mabasa will be a guest on Bonitas House Call on June 8 at 9am on SABC2

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Norman Mabasa