Health care system lets mothers, babies down


After 36-year-old Louisa Radcliffe was forced to deliver her baby herself in January last year after nurses at the Tambo Memorial Hospital in Boksburg apparently refused to help her, her baby died eight days later in the neonatal intensive care unit ( NICU) died.

It is a tragedy, says Michele Clark, the DA’s spokesperson on health, but what is even worse is that what happened to Radcliffe is not an isolated incident.

“Over the past few months there have been several reports of foreign mothers being blackmailed at the Tambo Memorial Hospital.

“However, it is worrying that other hospitals and provinces are not doing better.

“At the Mahikeng Provincial Hospital (MPH) in the North West, babies were placed in cardboard boxes, and 909 babies died in the last three years in Gauteng due to a shortage of neonatal intensive care units (NICU), insufficient infection control, mismanagement and hypothermia.

“Staff at the Witbank Provincial Hospital in Mpumalanga apparently not only endangered Cindy Steyn’s life, but also that of her son Xavier,” says Clark.

Prof. Malegapuru Makgoba, former health ombudsman, earlier made several recommendations after an investigation found that numerous infection protocols were violated and pregnant women were forced to sleep on the floor in some hospitals.

According to Clark, the DA made numerous visits to the Tambo Memorial Hospital and other Gauteng hospitals and continuously conveyed their findings and concerns to the Gauteng Department of Health.

“However, there is little or no departmental intervention. The only conclusion is that the failure to intervene is due to weak political will on the part of the ANC government and a general lack of healthcare for the most vulnerable communities in South Africa,” says Clark.

“An answer to a parliamentary question from the DA earlier this year shows that 19,707 of the 178,445 children (0 to 5 years) who died in public hospitals in the last decade died from pneumonia and diarrhoea, and that 12,582 died from moderate and severe acute malnutrition have died,” says Clark.

“The DA will submit in-depth written parliamentary questions to Dr. Joe Phaahla, the Minister of Health, on the number of neonatal deaths in public hospitals – and their cause – states.”