HOSPITAL workers at the George Masebe hospital in Limpopo discovered one morning that one of the ambulances at the facility had gone missing during the night.
A frantic call was made to police who immediately launched a spirited search for the Emergency Medical Services [EMS] vehicle which had been stolen by thugs who appeared to have cut through a fence at the Waterberg hospital.
It may never be known just how many lives were lost or patients inconvenienced by the theft of the EMS vehicle in this remote area where many of the citizens are poor and rely solely on public health and emergency care for services.
But the theft, vandalism and hijacking of emergency health care service vehicles is a reality that continues to haunt the department of health and in turn, communities.
In her budget vote speech this week, Limpopo health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba said to date, the department has procured a total of 250 EMS vehicles.
“Our concern is that only 227 are on the road as a result of theft, hijack, vandalism, motor vehicle accidents and damages by communities during protests,” Ramathuba told the Limpopo provincial legislature during the delivery of her budget vote speech.
She said in response to the challenge, the department has successfully introduced systems for fleet management.
Ramathuba said these would include the Push-to Talk communication system in all control centres and ambulances.
“We are currently installing active vehicle tracking in all EMS vehicles. This should improve our ability to render emergency services efficiently. But equally we are calling upon communities to protect these properties since they are theirs and are meant to save their lives,” she said.
She said one of the focus areas for the 2018/19 financial year would be to equip EMS vehicles with skilled personnel and equipment.
In relation to HIV\Aids, Ramathuba said by the third quarter the department reduced mother to child HIV transmission from the annual target of 1.1% to 0.7%.
“This means that 99.3 percent of babies born to HIV positive mothers are HIV negative. These children would not be subjected to anti-retroviral for life,” said Ramathuba.
Ramathuba said Limpopo continues to contribute to the country’s successful ART program with 319 174 people remaining on the initiative. She said this was against a target of 317 551 in the third quarter.
In a progressive move that could boost government’s fight against HIV\Aids, two of the province’s economic giants have partnered with the department to help fight the scourge.
Mining giants Exxaro and tomato farming conglomerate ZZ2 have been formally licensed by the department to provide ARVs. This is despite them not being medical sites. However both companies are major employers in the province whose economy relies heavily on mining and agriculture.
Ramathuba also revealed that the universities of Limpopo and Venda have also been ormally licensed to provide ARVs.
She said they have also established 11 clinics at all the TVET sites focusing not just on HIV/AIDS but also on reproductive health for the girl child in line with the SHE CONQUERS Campaign. “All these partnerships are proving successful in increasing accessibility to ARTs. We call upon other companies to join in this campaign. Without a healthy work force we will never grow our economy, create new jobs and attract new investments,” said Ramathuba.
Still on the fight against HIV\Aids, Ramathuba said the department has distributed more than 73 million male condoms and 2 million female condoms by the third quarter.
Added to that, a total number of 48 959 men underwent the snip against the annual target of 36 910 in the third quarter. She called on more men to take the plunge and get the snip, a service that is provided free of charge at public health centres.
Ramathuba said the 2018/19 overall budget for health vote has increased by 8.1% from the 2017/18 main appropriation and by 4.9% from the adjusted appropriation.
She said equitable share will grow by 3.8%, and 12.3% on conditional grants from the 2017/18 adjusted allocation.
Basically, this that the total budget indicates a growth from R18.6 billion this financial year to R19.5 billion in 2018/19. She said the allocation grows by an average of 5.5% over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework.
Budget at a glance:
- Strengthening District Health Services (Primary Healthcare) and district hospital delivery systems: R10.5 billion. This is 54% of the total budget of the department. The budget of this priority grows by an average of 5.3% over the next years.
- R2.5 billion has been allocated for Regional and Psychiatric hospitals.
- An amount of R68 million has been allocated towards the support of our home-based Carers.