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DA hits back after Dept of Health denies its MP was 'assaulted' by hospital staff

Oct 9, 2018
DA hits back after Dept of Health denies its MP was 'assaulted' by hospital staff

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Eastern Cape on Tuesday said that the comments made by the Eastern Cape Department of Health’s spokesperson, Lwandile Sicwetsha, over the weekend are extremely disconcerting.

This follows after DA Member of Parliament, Annette Steyn, on Thursday last week said that she had laid charges against the hospital staff of the Empilisweni Hospital, in Sterkspruit, at the Sterkspruit Police Station after she was allegedly assaulted and pushed around by hospital staff.

However, the  Eastern Cape Department of Heath  rejected the allegations and also accused Steyn and her team of invading the hospitaland violating the privacy and dignity of patients at the facility.

Still the DA insists that Steyn was assaulted by hospital staff while conducting a legitimate oversight inspection of the facilities, after previously being denied access to the hospital.

"How can the Department condone the assault on a member of parliament by staff? An apology should be forthcoming," asked Jane Cowley (MPL), DA Eastern Cape Shadow MEC for Health.

"Mr Sicwetsha went on to say: “the Department will not allow political parties to invade public health facilities under the pretence of oversight visits."

"Mr Sicwetsha must perhaps be reminded that, while the Department is certainly bound by law to protect the interests and safety of patients at health facilities, Section 55 of the constitution clearly states that the role of Parliament, which Ms Steyn is member of, is to maintain oversight of any organ of state."

'Sicwetsha’s statement that all oversights must be arranged in advance is not only patently false'

Cowley said that the reason for this is to monitor whether the state is delivering the services that it is mandated to deliver.

"At the Empilisweni Hospital this is clearly not the case.

"While it is pleasing to hear that renovation of the facility is underway, and it is understandable that this will certainly cause a level of disarray, it does not explain the filthy conditions that were found at the hospital," she described.

"It does not explain why no water has been available for days. It does not explain the shortage of medical personnel. It does not explain the desperate shortage of medicines.

"What has become blatantly apparent, is that the staff members at the facility have much to hide.

"Mr Sicwetsha’s statement that all oversights must be arranged in advance is not only patently false, it would defeat the very essence of conducting any oversight inspections. Such oversights would simply result in the now all-too-familiar window dressing we have come to expect from this Department. A shiny façade hiding the rot."

Cowley said that instead of addressing the blatant failings of one of its own institutions, the Department has opted to make this a political issue, while mothers-to-be are forced to lie in squalor, without water or proper medical care.

"This is the real violation of patients’ dignity!

"The desire of a government to control what the public sees is a strong indicator of its failure," she added .

"The public, who carry a heavy tax burden so that adequate services can be rendered to all South Africans, deserve to know how their money is being spent.

"I will be submitting questions to MEC Helen Sauls-August, to establish the true financial and physical status of this hospital.

"I will most certainly follow this up with an oversight visit of my own."

Cowley said that the Democratic Alliance will not be intimidated.

"We will continue to conduct oversight inspections at all state facilities, as this is our constitutional mandate, and it is in the interests of the people of South Africa who often approach us for help given that the failing ANC has long forgotten the people," she described.

"We will continue to expose the rot in the Health system and the corrupt practices of officials and practitioners whose sole mandate is self- enrichment."

'DA hospital invasion did violate patients' right to privacy'

However, Sicwetsha on Tuesday told RNEWS that the "hospital invasion" by the DA did violate the privacy and dignity of the patients.

"In line with its responsibility of protecting the privacy and dignity of patients at public health facilities, the Department will not allow political parties to invade public health facilities under the pretense of oversight visits," he described. 

"The department is bound by law to safeguard interests, privacy of patients who are admitted at health facilities.

"All oversight visits must be arranged with the either the Office of the Head of Department or the MEC from the Provincial Legislature or National Parliament."

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