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TAC Damning report on the state of health in the Eastern Cape

For years the healthcare system of the Eastern Cape province has been teetering on the edge of complete collapse. Horror stories abound of dysfunctional hospitals, run down clinics, over stretched nurses, medicine shortages and stockouts, and ambulances that never arrive. The healthcare system is not functioning in a way that is ordinarily understood as operational – all at the expense of people’s rights, dignity and lives.

TAC has been active in the Eastern Cape since the early 2000s and continues to represent users of the public healthcare system and campaign on critical issues related to the quality of and access to healthcare. We currently have a network of 26 branches in 5 districts in the Eastern Cape including Buffalo City, Chris Hani, Nelson Mandela Bay, OR Tambo, and Sarah Baartman. Through these branches we monitor service delivery at a number of clinics and hospitals. Our members are the people who need the public health system to work, so they are the first to notice when it does not.

In recent years TAC, together with SECTION27, have been the driving force behind the Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Coalition (ECHCAC) – a coalition of over 20 partner organisations including doctors, unions and patient groups. The coalition’s work has led to direct interventions from the National Department of Health and contributed to the removal of former MEC for Health Sicelo Gqobana. We also litigated in relation to the infamous Village Clinic in Lusikisiki and helped set the stage for the 2015 Human Rights Commission investigation into emergency medical services in the province. Unfortunately, nothing much has changed in the dire state of the health system in the province since these interventions

At a local level, each of our branches has adopted a primary healthcare facility local to them and have been monitoring the state of services at these 26 facilities since November 2017. The results highlight a litany of critical concerns with regard to the state of service delivery at clinics and community healthcare centres across the province. A summary of the results of data collected so far is provided below. 

The monitoring tool used has 24 questions based on the services and quality of service that a primary healthcare facility should offer. The questions, developed in consultation with TAC members, are designed to address the key concerns for users of the public healthcare system – and as such should be seen as complimentary to the more systematic and operational monitoring conducted by the Office of Health Standards Compliance (OHSC). The monitoring was conducted by TAC members trained in the use of the tool. The data collected by our branches corresponds to the worrying picture of our public healthcare system painted by reports published last year by the OHSC.

In addition to monitoring facilities, TAC branches engage with members of the community to understand the challenges and collect testimonies and complaints that relate to these concerns. We also conduct ongoing investigations into the state of a number of hospitals in the province, the results of which are shared in our analysis in the report.

Despite ongoing interventions, the situation in the Eastern Cape remains critical. Many persistent challenges plague the provincial health system that require an urgent and comprehensive turnaround strategy by the Eastern Cape Department of Health. We outline all our concerns and demands in this new report. The report has been sent to the Health MEC in the province.

Caleb Tayi
Caleb Tayi
I'm a critical reader and a lover of words. As the ECToday Editor my job is to polish and refine a story or an article, check facts, spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.


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