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Minister Joe Phaahla on a site-visit to Kalafong Hospital, Tshwane

1 Sep 2022

Statement by Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla during a site-visit to Kalafong Hospital – Thursday, 01 September 2022

The National Department and Ministry of Health have noted with concern over the last few days organised protests at some of our health facilities, especially in Gauteng. These groups of people have been blocking access to health facilities thus causing serious disruptions to the orderly provision of health services to vulnerable ill people seeking help at our health facilities. These kinds of activities are a violation of the South African constitution and deprives people of their fundamental rights and are consequently illegal.

As the government of the Republic of South Africa we are obliged by the Constitution and the Law to make sure our population have access to health care services and that no one may be refused emergency medical treatment. The right to health in our Constitution is not qualified and must be understood as such. The National Health Act goes on to provide the framework through which a national health service will be put in place which will “provide in an equitable manner the population of the Republic 
with the best possible health services that available resources can afford.

I am aware that the current excitement and mobilisation by some groups such as Dudula is associated with erroneous interpretation of a video of comments made by MEC for Health in Limpopo to a patient at Bela-Bela hospital. As already commented by my colleague, Deputy Minister Dhlomo, in various interviews while I was out of the country, we must distinguish two issues out of the video. 

The first issue is that we agree with those who are saying it was inappropriate for the MEC to direct her concerns to a patient who was in a vulnerable state and a victim of circumstances. The second issue is that the substantive matters which MEC was raising in terms of the high demand and pressure on our health services beyond what is planned for put additional pressure on a system which was already fragile for many reasons which are known to many of us. The question of how to deal with these additional pressures on our national services from people from our neighbouring countries, which happens in an unplanned, unpredictable, and unfunded manner is not new and has been a subject of discussion at various policy discussions.

I can say here that the matter has even come out at ANC policy discussions where suggestions have been made on how it could be regulated and managed but these suggestions still have to be processed. I must hasten to indicate that this is but one of the challenges putting pressure on quality of service in the public sector. The reality, however, is that if this aspect of the pressure on our health services continues to grow without any mitigation it can push our system to the brink. The other contributing factors such as reduced funding, inefficiency, maladministration, corruption, and poor management must also be dealt with.

In terms of reducing the pressure of demand of services from citizens of our neighbouring countries, it is us who are managing the state who must come with solutions and not ordinary citizens of South Africa. I am calling on fellow South Africans, whether organised or not to avoid being lured into activities which are unlawful and will not benefit them as individuals or their communities. By blocking entrances of our health facilities, you are actually disadvantaging the very citizens who you think you are acting 
in defence of. Our heroic health workers are still recovering from the burden of Covid-19, both physically and mentally and it is unfair to subject them to further trauma.

I am hereby making a call to the leaders and followers of the organisations responsible for the blockades of our health facilities to stop these with immediate effect. Yours as citizens is to hold the government accountable for improvement of services whatever the cause of poor service might be. We do not prefer to rely on law enforcement to create an environment conducive for our health workers to do their best in saving lives, that is our last resort but of cause if we are left with no alternative, we will call on the 
police to keep law and order. 

This is a challenge which can be solved through leadership and political intervention, and we are ready to be held accountable in the improvement of quality of health services for the entire South African population.
 

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