Wednesday 22 May


15 October 2013

ECHCAC press statement: Request for a meeting with Premier, Provincial Government and the ANC following non-response from MEC Sicelo Gqobana

EAST LONDON – The Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Coalition (ECHCAC) resolved at a meeting yesterday to immediately write to the ANC, the Eastern Cape standing committee on health and the Premier regarding Health MEC Sicelo Gqobana’s continued failure to respond to the memorandum we presented to his office on 13 September 2013.

We will request a meeting with these parties by the end of this month and will thereafter consider our options.

The health crisis in the Eastern Cape requires not only urgent action, but also the development of a recovery plan to make systemic changes to fix the healthcare system in the Eastern Cape, large parts of which are in a state of crisis and collapse.

The publication of a special investigative report by the Treatment Action Campaign and SECTION27, “Death and Dying in the Eastern Cape” did prompt a response by the national health minister. His response did not include a recovery plan, but did attempt to deal with some of the immediate crises identified in the report.

Whilst applauding the response of the Minister, in which he accepted that the Eastern Cape healthcare system is in a state of crisis, our members report that there been little real change on the ground. Unfortunately we have received a number of reports that other than at Holy Cross Hospital the promised equipment has not yet arrived at most of the institutions where the situation is equally desperate. Promised blood pressure machines, wheelchairs and other equipment has not reached many of the facilities. In fact, there are reports of a deepening crisis. We have also received some reports that health workers are less keen to report challenges following threats of victimization and the attention generated by the report.

ECHCAC’s demands were set in a memorandum accepted on behalf of the MEC by Thobile Mbengashe, the Head of Department for Health in the Eastern Cape, at a march in Bhisho on September 13.

However, a deadline to respond by October 11 has been ignored by the MEC and his officials.

We note media reports in which the MEC’s spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo is quoted as stating that the provincial department of health feels that Minister Motsoaledi’s previous press conference qualifies as a plan and fills the conditions of the memorandum. Kupelo reportedly told a journalist that the national minister has already responded by tabling his plans to address the concerns raised.

Yesterday’s meeting was attended by a wide range of ECHCAC’s ever-growing organisational membership including the Treatment Action Campaign, Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA, Rural Rehab SA, Rural Health Advocacy Project, Keiskamma Trust, Democracy From Below, Budget and Expenditure Monitoring Forum, SECTION27, Public Service Accountability Monitor, Community Health Workers Chalumna, Black Sash, South African Medical Association, the Federation of Unions of SA, Rural Doctors’ Association of SA and the Methodist Church of South Africa.

ECHCAC is inspired by the continuously increasing unity amongst a broad spectrum of civil society and call upon religious leaders, social movements, NGOs, healthcare professionals and members of civil society to join our campaign to work with the government to fix the healthcare system in the Eastern Cape. The purpose and principles of this campaign were agreed and are set out in a separate document.

We are particularly encouraged by the increased flow of information from healthcare professionals working in the Eastern Cape and the groundswell of support for ECHCAC at the community level. We encourage healthcare professionals and users of the system to speak out to assist us in our effort to ensure that the people of the Eastern Cape have access to quality healthcare as is promised by the Constitution.

ECHCAC will now urgently write to and request meetings prior to the end of October with:

* The Premier of the Eastern Cape Mrs Noxolo Kieviet;

* The Standing Committee on Health in the Eastern Cape;

* The Eastern Cape leadership of the African National Congress.

ECHCAC also condemns any intimidation or victimisation of healthcare professionals who speak out and call upon the MEC for the Health and the National Minister of Health to make clear public statements to this effect.

Unless the above meetings lead to agreement that there is a need for a comprehensive recovery plan, combined with actions to fix life threatening problems, ECHCAC will organise further demonstrations, mobilisation and protest within the Eastern Cape and throughout the country.

If we do not begin to see urgent action and a movement towards systemic change in the Eastern Cape public healthcare system it was resolved to explore the option of taking legal action. In the run up to the 2014 Elections, we call upon the Eastern Cape government to take seriously people’s demands for their constitutional right to have access to healthcare met.

The ECHCAC is a coalition of organisations and individuals primarily from the Eastern Cape dedicated to fixing the healthcare system and ensuring the realisation of the constitutional right to health in the Province. 

For more information contact:

Kwazi Mbatha (RHAP) –  078 059 9309

Anele Yawa (TAC) – 073 555 8849

ECHCAC Press Release – 15 October 2013