Residents tell NHI committee of poor health services

Image: iStock

Pregnant women in labour have to hire vehicles to get them to hospital because ambulances don't arrive.

This was one of many grievances Mthatha residents aired to MPs on the health portfolio committee at hearings on the proposed National Health Insurance Bill on Sunday.

Residents said in villages where there were no clinics, sickly elderly people had to walk long distances through dangerous forests and across raging rivers to get to medical facilities.

Chaired by Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, the committee held several public meetings on the bill in the Eastern Cape last week.

While participants in Mthatha welcomed the idea of the NHI, they spoke about health challenges in their areas.

Tsolo resident Lindelwa Magenu, who also serves on the hospital board at Dr Malizo Mpehle Memorial Hospital,  said in her village of Sidwadweni, women often went into labour in cars hired by their families to take them to hospital.

“No ambulance has ever gone there due to the poor condition of the road.

“We used to have a visiting doctor but they don’t come here any more,” she said.

She said more doctors were also needed at Malizo Mpehle Memorial, as it was a referral hospital for other hospitals such as Tyler Bequest and Sulenkama.

Rose Mbikwana, from Slovo Park informal settlement in Mthatha, said ambulances did not arrive to fetch sick people in her area, even after being phoned several times.

She added that even when they arrived, people had to wait long hours to be attended to at medical facilities.

Nolitha Matomane, from Tyhalarha village, said her village had no clinic and sick people had to walk to Qunu or Mvezo, as there was no transport to take them there.

“They have to go through a forest and across raging rivers.

“We all know that nowadays the country has become unsafe, especially for women,” she said.

People confined to wheelchairs have to be pushed for kilometres to get to the clinic, she added.

Thabile Kunene, of Cosatu in the Eastern Cape, said the union was fully behind the NHI.

Dhlomo said they had been sent by National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise to canvass ordinary people’s views on the proposed bill.

He said they were there to listen to communities’ concerns, not necessarily to provide answers to their problems.

“The bill states that everyone should get medical care in SA, whether you have money or not.”

Dhlomo said a NHI fund would be created, and it was hoped “those who will administer it won’t be corrupt”.

Dhlomo urged residents not to go to hospitals for minor illnesses, but to rather visit clinics, so that hospitals had greater capacity to attend to more serious cases.