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NC Health dept reveals plans to improve services

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In an effort to strengthen the delivery of health services in the Northern Cape, the provincial Department of Health has embarked on a mission to improve the service standards and staff capacity at its health facilities.

The Northern Cape MEC for Health, Maruping Lekwene, and the acting head of the Department of Health, Mxolisi Mlatha. Picture: Soraya Crowie

IN AN EFFORT to strengthen the delivery of health services in the Northern Cape, the provincial Department of Health has embarked on a mission to improve the service standards and staff capacity at its health facilities.

The MEC for Health, Maruping Lekwene, speaking at a press conference in Kimberley on January 7, said that in a bid to address the shortage of staff at some health facilities, hundreds of new appointments have been made.

“The Internship and Community Service programme is an essential aspect of the retention and improvement of our human resources for health. A total of 295 posts were gazetted, and 281 were allocated. Of the 281 posts, a total of 215 successful candidates have already reported for duty from January this year. The remaining successful candidates will occupy their new posts on April 30, 2024. This cohort was equally distributed across the Province,” said Lekwene.

“The department has received 60 medical officers (Community Services) and 36 medical interns who were placed at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital (RMSH) as a training platform. The other categories include audiologists, dentists, environmental health officers, etc. This cohort of cadres strengthens the service platform, especially in rural areas where it is not easy to attract and retain professionals. The department offered them permanent employment to service these rural areas.

“From our bursary holders, we have retained 23 doctors who are currently placed in our different facilities across the Province.”

Lekwene said that the focus will be on the fair distribution of skilled staff and retaining the appointed employees in areas where challenges are experienced.

“There are a total of 513 medical officers in the Province, of which 293 are stationed at RMSH. This is one area where the Province is doing well, however, there is a challenge in the distribution. The department took a decision to centralise the appointment of medical officers to address the unequal distribution.

“The department has a total of 2,539 nurses. The challenge of retaining nurses still remains as there is a high attrition of nurses, which results in those who remain in the system, being overburdened. The approved HR plan for the department places special focus on retaining nurses.

“To further address the shortage of nurses in the Province, the department continues its joint partnership with the University of Stellenbosch, whereby funding for studies is provided to nursing staff who wish to improve their skills and expand their knowledge.”

Lekwene said the additional facilities and longer operating hours at some of the current health facilities are some of the measures implemented, by which they will improve and speed up their services to communities.

“As part of improving access to oncology services, the department has commenced with the process of building a radiation centre. The centre will, among others, include the procurement of the linear accelerator and planning for the bunker. The commissioning of the oncology centre, which includes radiotherapy services and nuclear medicine, is expected to be finalised in 2025/26 financial year.

“As part of the developmental services within our tertiary hospital, RMSH, we have successfully added neurosurgery and vascular surgery, which are all managed by medical specialists.

“In addition to our services package, we have also included haematology, which is managed within the oncology unit. The department will also be opening three clinics, two in ZF Mgcawu District and one in John Taolo Gaetsewe District. The construction of these clinics will ensure that rural communities have access to quality health care.

“To ensure that none of our community members are left without any medical assistance, the department has also procured 10 mobile vehicles to service the remote under-serviced areas.

“With the aim of alleviating the pressure at RMSH, the operational hours of the City Clinic, Betty Gaetsewe and Winston Torres will be extended as from March 1, 2024. Galeshewe Day Hospital will be operational for 24 hours a day from February 15, 2024.”

Lekwene added that the high number of nursing student applications received also highlighted the need for a satellite nursing college in the Province.

“Henrietta Stockdale Nursing College has submitted the curriculum for the R169 and R171 higher certificate and diploma programmes, respectively. The college obtained ultimate approval in November 2023 for the diploma programme.

“Currently, they are still anticipating final approval from the Council on Higher Education for the higher certificate programme.

“Approval was granted for 30 diploma students for the R171 training programme. The advanced diploma in midwifery has also been submitted to the South African Nursing Council in November 2023 for evaluation. The advert for the nursing programme was published in November 2023 and a total of ,2246 applications were received.

“Applicants comprised of prospective students who were matriculants, community health workers, assistant nurses and staff nurses.

“The high number of applications highlighted the urgent need to establish satellite campuses in the Province so that the output of the college can effectively deal with shortages of nurses at our facilities.

“The department is working hard to ensure that we meet all these demands as we enter the last mile of the current administration. We have not lost sight of our mandate, which is to provide quality health-care services and facilities to all communities reliant on government health care,” Lekwene concluded.

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