The national health department has sent 200 senior managers, doctors and nurses to help manage hospitals nationwide, health minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced on Tuesday.
During a press conference in Pretoria, Motsoaledi denied media reports that the country’s health system is facing total collapse. The North West is the only province in which healthcare services have broken down, he said.
“Our health system is still able to look after the largest number of HIV-positive people globally.”
Watch: “Has the system collapsed? I am not here to challenge that because I do not know the yardstick”
South Africa’s HIV programme is the world’s largest with more than 4-million people on antiretroviral treatment in the country.
He admitted however, that South Africa’s health system was “going through hard times” with overcrowding and treatment backlogs at hospitals on the increase.
Motsoaledi expressed shock in finding around 70 babies in the neonatal ward at Gauteng’s Tembisa Hospital, which was built to house just 40 newborns.
“We are painfully aware of the lack of management skills in most of our hospitals.”
The health minister believes the 200 hospital deployees would minimise waiting times and improve facility management. The officials will remain at healthcare facilities for a trial period until the end of June.
Most of South Africa’s healthcare woes can be linked to staff shortages amid growing patient numbers, Motsoaledi said. Meanwhile, the national health department will pursue private-public partners to help lessen patient loads at hospitals. The department will contract 250 private GPs to treat around 50 000 people living with HIV. The government will be contracting private cancer specialists to help address backlogs in cancer treatment.
Last year, the department launched a similar plan in KwaZulu-Natal. The University of the Witwatersrand-owned Wits Health Consortium was awarded a six-month contract to provide cancer treatment services in the province. The province has battled a dire shortage of cancer treatment specialists, forcing patients to wait up to 12 months to see a doctor, a South African Human Rights Commission hearing into the crisis found in May.