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New test for TB could save thousands of lives, say UCT researchers
2017-03-2409:03:25 AM

By: Farren Collins                                         Published on: 23 March 2017

Source: Business Day

A new urine-based test‚ similar to those used to determine pregnancy‚ being used to diagnose tuberculosis (TB) could save thousands of lives in SA. Researchers from the University of Cape Town found that the TB-LAM urine test was a “simple and inexpensive” way to test for TB among hospitalised patients with HIV.

The findings were published in the BMC Medicine Journal this month to coincide with TB Awareness Month. The test‚ which detects components of the cell wall of the TB bacterium in urine‚ was proven to be more efficient than traditional rapid sputum-based tests.

Researcher Graeme Meintjes said that the findings could reduce mortality among HIV-infected patients admitted to hospital by speeding up the diagnosis of TB.

“The findings of these studies challenge the dogma that the first place to look for TB is in the sputum‚” he said.

In 2014, TB overtook HIV as the number-one killer of all infectious diseases in SA and globally. According to Stats SA‚ TB killed more than 33,000 people in SA in 2015‚ and the incident rate locally was 520 per 100,000 of the population.

Recently, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said a national strategy for HIV/AIDS‚ TB and sexually transmitted infections would be unveiled, and that the government had worked hard to bring the TB mortality rate down from 70,000 per annum “about 10 years ago”‚ but that 33,000 was still too high.

Part of the problem was a lack of new research into drugs to treat TB and other drug-resistant forms of the disease. “Because the world thought we had defeated TB‚ there has been no new research for the past 50 years. It’s only now that we are waking up‚” said Motsoaledi.

According to a report by Bizcommunity‚ a Japanese drug-maker will supply SA free of charge to pilot one of the few new TB drugs to be developed in half a century.

The drug‚ Delamanid, usually costs R430,000 for a six-month treatment‚ will be rolled out to 200 patients.

The South African National TB Association (SANTA) community services manager, Peter Mabalane‚ said that a lack of funding for TB programmes and the conflation of TB and HIV‚ meant the problem of TB was not properly addressed. “TB is not getting the attention it deserves and is treated as a secondary disease to HIV‚” he said. “There is no need for people to die from TB because it is curable. We need a well funded unit that will liaise properly with non-governmental organisations and communities to fight TB.”

Motsoaledi said the core infection rates for TB and HIV were very high‚ and the diseases could not be looked at in isolation. He said the strategy plan would deal with prevention‚ treatment, care and support, and will target key populations.

Source: Business Day

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We must all do what we can to eradicate TB, HIV
2017-03-2409:03:03 AM

By:Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa                              Published on: 24 March 2017

Source: Cape Argus

AS HUMAN beings, we always run the risk of contracting one disease or the other. This is especially so with infectious diseases. “If you breathe, you can get tuberculosis, and the only way to prevent this is to stop breathing.” This is what Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi often tells us. This is especially true in South Africa, which has particularly high levels of tuberculosis (TB). As we commemorate World TB Day today, we seek to redouble our efforts as a country to fight this disease as we are experiencing a high number of deaths from TB-related illnesses. In fact, TB has now overtaken HIV as the highest cause of death among South Africans. This does not mean that we need to be fatalistic or complacent. As we commemorate World TB Day, we must rededicate ourselves to doing everything possible to prevent the transmission of TB. This means that each of us needs to take responsibility for getting tested if we have any of the symptoms of the disease. If diagnosed with TB, get treatment, complete treatment and ensure that we are cured.

We must also ensure that we take precautions not to infect others. This is important for each of us, for our families, our work colleagues and for society at large. We have made some progress in dealing with the twin epidemics of TB and HIV over the past six years. The Statistician-General reports that deaths from TB are coming down. The Minister of Health tells us that the number of people who are cured of TB is increasing. These are very encouraging. But we need to do more. We still have large numbers of people who have TB. There is no shame in being diagnosed with TB, as anyone who breathes can contract the disease. Both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu had TB, received treatment and lived healthy lives. What is a concern is that many people wait until they are very ill before they seek healthcare.
I call on all South Africans to be aware of the symptoms of TB and urgently seek care if you have the symptoms. These symptoms can include a fever, unexplained weight loss, drenching night sweats or a persistent cough. Diagnosis and treatment for TB is free at all public health facilities. We must remember that TB is curable. We have the medicines and skilled health professionals to ensure that people with TB are correctly diagnosed and treated. It is in all of our interests to get treated and get cured. Civil society organisations have an important role to play in our quest to eliminate TB as a public health threat. Religious institutions such as churches, mosques, temples and synagogues can include messages about TB, including their symptoms, in their sermons. Indeed, these religious institutions can also provide services such as TB screening and HIV testing to their congregations as well as to communities that live close by. The government will support such initiatives by assisting to make these health services available. Employers, too, have a role to play. Whether small, medium or large businesses, employers can provide information on TB and HIV to their employees and provide screening and testing services as well. Again, the government is ready to provide support to these initiatives and ensure that employees who are in need of health services, but can’t afford them, will receive these services in public facilities.

Likewise, organised labour can also play a role in a number of ways, urging their members to take care of their health and use health services, whether they are provided by the employer or those in the public health sector. Employers and their employees should work hand in hand to ensure that workplaces promote health and well-being. We can defeat the TB bacteria, we have the political commitment, the diagnostic tools and the medicines. What we need is a national movement that is single-minded and focused. Working together – civil society, religious institutions, business, organised labour and government – we can beat this disease. As we mark World TB Day 2017, we must commit ourselves to doing everything that we can to defeat TB and its twin, HIV.


Source: Cape Argus


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Help to eliminate TB
2017-03-2409:03:57 AM

By: Editorial Comment                             Published on: 24 March 2017

Source: Cape Argus

Today is World TB Day – and according to statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO), TB is still a serious problem. WHO Figures for 2015 indicate that 10.4-million people across the globe contracted the disease. Of this number, 1.8-million died, including 400 000 who also had HIV. About a third of the world’s population has a latent form of the disease, the WHO says. This means their bodies have been infected with the TB bacteria, but they have not yet become ill. Those infected have a 10 percent risk throughout their lives of falling ill with TB.

But people with compromised immune systems – such as those with HIV, malnutrition or diabetes – are much more at risk. Sadly, South Africa has one of the highest occurrences of TB in the world, with WHO statistics indicating that about one percent of our 54 million population develops active TB every year. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Anyone who breathes can contract the disease – but it can be cured. In fact, two of South Africa’s most towering figures – former President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu – developed TB. But both went on to live healthy lives after being treated.

But there is a problem, according to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, the chairperson of the South African National Aids Council: “Many people wait until they are very ill before they seek health care. I call on all South Africans to be aware of the symptoms of TB and urgently seek care if you have the symptoms,” Ramaphosa says in a World TB Day message today. Symptoms are not hard to identify. They include a fever, unexplained weight loss, drenching night sweats or a persistent cough. Ramaphosa called on religious institutions such as churches, mosques, temples and synagogues to include messages about TB and its symptoms in their sermons. He also called on civil society organisations to recognise the important role they can play in eliminating the disease. We would like to echo Ramaphosa’s call. If you feel you have the symptoms of TB – or if you know of someone who has – ensure that a doctor is consulted immediately.

Source: Cape Argus

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State health hits back at ‘vulture’ attorneys on lookout for handicapped kids
2017-03-2408:03:17 AM

By:Bianca Capazorio                                 Published on: 24 March 2017

Source: Times Live

“Parasitic” and “criminal” lawyers are haunting hospitals, hoping to hear of babies being born with defects so they can file damages claims against the state, parliament has heard.

Representatives of six provincial health departments yesterday appeared before a joint sitting of parliament’s standing committee on appropriations and the portfolio committee on health to discuss the delivery of health services.

Some of the representatives raised the issue of high legal claims against their departments, which they said were mostly attributable to unscrupulous attorneys trying to cash in.

The attorneys were said to have shifted their attention to state hospitals after the Road Accident Fund cracked down on the submission of inflated claims.

Some of the provinces have contingent liabilities running into billions of rands.

KwaZulu-Natal, which has the second-highest claims total after Gauteng, told the committee that its contingent liabilities for medical litigation was almost R10-billion.

The province spent R243-million on claims in 2016-2017 – for which it had not budgeted.

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said the claims were not based only on allegations of negligence.

Dhlomo said law firms advertised their services to encourage people to employ them if they felt they had received poor medical treatment from the state.

He said lawyers were colluding with doctors to get patient files in order to lodge claims.

Dhlomo said most of the claims against his department were birth- related and frequently cited cerebral palsy as a result of birth complications.

He said there were legitimate claims but unscrupulous attorneys were visiting early childhood development centres looking for children with cerebral palsy so they could claim against the state.

“If we admit we made a mistake there must be compensation, but in some cases millions are being requested for future medical expenses. We should rather be saying that person can walk into any of our facilities and receive the medical treatment they need at any point because, even if they are claiming millions for medical expenses, they are still ending up back in our hospitals.”

KwaZulu-Natal Finance MEC Belinda Francis Scott said the attorneys’ behaviour was “not only criminal, but parasitical. They are vultures”.

She said gynaecologists and obstetricians in private practice were having to take out huge insurance policies to protect themselves from the ever-increasing number of claims.

”If there is a problem birth, there are lawyers waiting there, before the baby is even born. And they tell the family that they are submitting a claim for R100 000 and then they submit a claim for R2-million and pocket the rest,” she said.

In the 2015-2016 financial year the allowance for contingent liabilities by the Gauteng health department amounted to R13-billion.

The acting head of the Gauteng health department, Ernest Kenoshi, said the number of claims against the province was “outrageous”.

He said an analysis of the cases that resulted in the department paying compensation showed that there were instances in which the department could have “fought harder” or got better legal advice.

The department said it had paid R600-million to lawyers in the past year alone.

The Northern Cape has R1.2-billion in pending legal claims, and there has been an increase in claims of more than 100% in Limpopo in the past year.

The Limpopo health department told the committee there had been a 133% increase in legal claims – from an average R30-million a year between 2013 and 2015 to R70-million in 2016-2017.

The Law Society of SA said those affected by medical malpractice had the right to be legally represented and compensated.

“It cannot be that victims of medical malpractice – who are often the poor and vulnerable – should be expected to have the specialist knowledge, money and power to take on the state through an “administrative process” if they have suffered life-changing and critical damage at the hands of the healthcare system and healthcare practitioners.

The society said collusion between doctors and lawyers should be reported to the provincial law societies and to the police.

Source: Times Live

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State’s dud drugs mess
2017-03-2408:03:08 AM

By: Katharine Child                                          Published on: 24 March 2017

Source:Times Live

Almost half of state-run medicine depots are storing life-saving drugs inadequately, risking patient safety and breaking the law by operating without a licence.

This sorry state of affairs came to light at a recent presentation to the parliamentary portfolio committee on health by representatives of the auditor-general’s office.

The office was presenting the results of an audit of the handling of the medicines, valued at R16-billion, that the state buys each year.

The audit suggests that some patients are treated with ineffective medicines and that a fortune is being wasted on drugs that are not needed or have passed their expiry date.

Four of the 10 state medicine depots do not qualify for the Medicines Control Council licence they need to operate legally.

The four depots applied for licences but were turned down because they had inadequate storage facilities.

The auditor-general found that only the Gauteng and Western Cape provincial depots stored medicines satisfactorily.

The poor storage practices included boxes of medicine being exposed to the sun because there were no blinds on the windows. Sunlight can destroy some antibiotics and vitamins.

In one instance, a KwaZulu-Natal storeroom was found to have a temperature of 34C – 9C higher than the internationally recognised maximum of 25C for the storage of medicine.

“This makes the effectiveness of these medicines questionable,” the auditor- general’s report said.

Recordings of temperature should be made every few hours in refrigerated rooms, but a register of the temperatures recorded in a cold room in the Free State depot had not been updated between August 2010 and May 2013.

Poor security at depots led to the theft of drugs. At one depot a wheelbarrow had been used as an improvised door.

Because of a lack of stock control, provinces could not say which medicines had been stolen, or quantify the thefts.

The auditor-general found that some depots had no security cameras – or the camera systems did not work.

The registrar of the Medicines Control Council, Joey Gouws, would not say why four depots had not been licensed, but said they had breached “only” good warehousing practices and quality controls.

“The Medicines Control Council is in discussions continually with these identified state depots to try to guide them on the requirements to reach compliance status,” Gouws said.

“Periodic routine inspections are being conducted to monitor corrective action.”

DA spokesman on health Wilmot James said he was worried about the health implications of medicine depots operating illegally.

“The Medicines Control Council has strict compliance requirements for the storage and distribution of medicines – including refrigeration – and the monitoring of expiration dates. The lack of registration poses a risk.”


Source:Times Live

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Angelic Hope for SA’s Stroke Patients
2017-03-2318:03:34 PM

By: Sikhumbuzo Hlabangane                    Published on: 23 March 2017

Source: eHealthnews

Boehringer Ingelheim has launched the Angels Initiative, a stroke-awareness and care initiative aimed at making South Africa’s hospitals stroke-ready.

Leading international pharmaceutical company, Boehringer Ingelheim, has launched the Angels Initiative, a fully funded stroke-awareness and care initiative aimed at making South Africa’s hospitals stroke-ready.

The global Angels Initiative aims to increase stroke awareness and education across South Africa’s diverse communities and to provide best practice guidance, training and equipment to healthcare professionals, standardising the availability and quality of stroke-readiness and care within South Africa’s hospitals.

“In South Africa, 1 in 3 people diagnosed with acute stroke will die and 1 in 4 will be left with a life-changing disability. Many of these patients may have been saved and gone on to live lives free from disability if they had received appropriate care in a stroke-ready facility better equipped to deal with this life-threatening medical emergency,” said General Manager at Boehringer Ingelheim South Africa, Tim Snell.

Stroke is the second leading cause of mortality and leading cause of disability in South Africa. In 2014, over 23,000 South Africans lost their lives due to a stroke, with one person diagnosed every six minutes, according to Emergency Physician at Wits University and member of the Angels Initiative Steering Committee, Dr Feroza Motara.

Despite the estimated 132,000 strokes a year occurring in South Africa, stroke care is inadequate for current patient needs, added Dr Motara. Dr Motara says there’s an immediate need for an updated approach and clinical interventions in diagnosis, treatment, care and rehabilitation of stroke patients.

“Our burden of risk factors for stroke is among the highest in the world. This initiative, with its full scientific and financial backing is of paramount importance to the future health of South Africans, where heart disease and stroke incidence often affects adults in their most productive years,” said Dr Motara.

“The high economic costs of stroke, including escalated staff turnover and absenteeism, impact greatly on productivity and add to the already unsustainable economic burden on our healthcare system,” continued Dr Motara.

The Angel Initiative was launched last year to representatives from 40 private and 10 government hospitals, as well as head office representatives of various cardiovascular and stroke-focused organisations. With the goal to register 165 stroke-ready units across the country by November 2019, the Angels Initiative has set the tone for a simplified, co-ordinated approach to stroke care in South Africa.

Source: eHealthnews

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Akeso Launches New Mental Health Unit For Teens
2017-03-2318:03:46 PM

By: Sikhumbuzo Hlabangane                   Published on: 22 March 2017

Source: eHealthnews

The Akeso Milnerton clinic has opened a new 29-bed unit dedicated to treating adolescents suffering from a range of psychiatric disorders.

The Akeso Milnerton clinic has opened a new 29-bed unit dedicated to treating adolescents suffering from a range of psychiatric disorders.

Akeso Milnerton offers specialist inpatient treatment for a range of psychiatric illnesses through its General Psychiatry, Dual Diagnosis and Young Adults Units, including anxiety and depression, substance abuse and addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The new unit is expected to have a significant impact on access to quality mental healthcare within the Western Cape and will offer new hope to many adolescents suffering with debilitating mental health conditions.

Global estimates show that 20% of all adolescents suffer from a mental disorder, with suicide being the second leading cause of death among young people worldwide. Common adolescent behavioural disorders including substance abuse, anxiety, depression, trauma and stress-related disorders as well as developing personality problems, are key risk factors contributing to this concerning statistic.

The outcomes-based unit will be managed by a team of experienced nursing staff and a multi-disciplinary team, including psychiatrists, clinical and counselling psychologists, occupational therapists and social workers who will work in a coordinated fashion to assist adolescents and their families to find health balance and to stay well in their everyday lives post- discharge.

Akeso believes in a holistic approach which includes skills-based, remedial and preventative interventions. When disorders are picked up early, the risk of the development of long term chronicity into adulthood is significantly reduced.

The unit will employ the dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) model as its foundation, although other types of therapy will be integrated as appropriate. DBT is a practical, evidence-based therapy that provides the adolescent with skills and techniques to regulate moods and facilitate behaviours that lead to a virtuous cycle of positive consequences that build their self-esteem. Akeso says many adolescent are caught in self-destructive behaviours they find difficult to break out of; DBT addresses this directly.

Akeso also offers specialised programmes for adolescents at its clinics in Alberton, Parktown, Randburg, Kenilworth and George.


Source: eHealthnews

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Local Scientist Recognised at the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science Awards
2017-03-2318:03:39 PM

By: Terri Chowles                                            Published on: 23 March 2017

Source: eHealthnews

Dr Stephanie Fanucchi was recognised for her innovative research in cancer and autoimmune diseases during the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards.

Post-doctoral researcher at the CSIR within the Biomedical Translational Research Initiative (BTRI), Dr Stephanie Fanucchi, was one of 15 young female scientists recognised for her innovative research in cancer and autoimmune diseases during the 19th edition of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards.

Since 1998, the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation and UNESCO have been committed to increase the number of women working in scientific research. Since the programme began, it has supported more than 2,700 young women from 115 countries and celebrated 97 Laureates, at the peak of their careers, including professors Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Ada Yonath, who went on to win a Nobel Prize.

The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme supports more than 260 young women scientists who are the “scientists of tomorrow” by accompanying them at a key moment in their careers, during their PhD thesis or post-doctoral studies. Dr Fanucchi was one of two post-doctoral fellowship recipients for the 2016 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Programme.

Dr Fanucchi was awarded for her work that focuses on understanding how inflammation is controlled at the level of gene regulation.

Inflammation, the bodies’ protective response to injury or infection is perceived as a double-edged sword; it’s needed to clear infection but if it is not carefully regulated it leads to many diseases, like autoimmune disease, cancers and even sepsis, the leading cause of death in ICUs worldwide.

“Current approaches to treat inflammation are not always successful. This highlights the need to gain a detailed understanding of these processes, so we can develop new therapies and refine old ones,” said Dr Fanucchi about her research.

Gene regulation, or the mechanism whereby genes are switched on and off, is critical to how cells function, and regulates inflammation.

“My work focuses on understanding how inflammation is controlled at the level of gene regulation. This is a highly complex process that is not fully understood. Critically, the ability to tune down this rapid response would be a very important therapy,” said Dr Fanucchi.
To study this process, Dr Fanucchi is using a combination of advanced microscopy and cell biology approaches in transgenic models. Her work came to the fore in 2013 thanks to a paper published in the prestigious journal Cell on the then poorly understood process of how 3D nuclear architecture influences gene regulation. Her current research will help refine targeted therapies for cancer and autoimmune diseases.

On being named a L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science International Rising Talent, Dr Fanucchi said: “Winning this award has been surreal and being exposed to such great scientific talent has been a life changing experience.”

“Having the platform to discuss the importance of having more females in science has been a highlight for me. In addition, we get to celebrate phenomenal female scientific achievements which can inspire young girls who want to enter science,” concluded Dr Fanucchi.

Source: eHealthnews

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NHI Success Lies in Public-Private Collaboration
2017-03-2317:03:57 PM

By: Sikhumbuzo Hlabangane                     Published on: 22 March 2017

Source: eHealthnews

According to Dr Rolene Wagner, South Africa is on the right track towards ensuring that all citizens have access to affordable, quality healthcare services.

South Africa is on the right track towards ensuring that all citizens have access to affordable, quality healthcare services regardless of their socio-economic circumstances. This is according to the CEO of Frere Hospital, Dr Rolene Wagner, who was speaking at the Distinguished Speakers Programme hosted by the UCT Graduate School of Business.

Dr Wagner expressed her support for National Health Insurance (NHI) – the government’s multi-billion rand plan which seeks to radically reform South Africa’s healthcare system.

Through NHI, the government is seeking to improve the health system, with an emphasis on public health, as well as refining the functionality and management of the system through stringent budget and expenditure monitoring.

Creating an equitable health system

In his 2017 budget speech, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced that the government would establish an NHI fund this year that may be partly financed by a decrease in the tax subsidy currently given to medical scheme members. The fund would initially focus maternal health, family planning services, the integrated school health programme and improving the services for people with disabilities, the elderly and “mentally ill patients”.

South Africa’s health system is made up of a large and resource-constrained public sector and a smaller, albeit fast growing private sector. While the government contributes just more than 40% of all expenditure on health, the public health sector is under pressure to cater for about 80% of the population.

In contrast, the private sector largely caters to middle- and high-income earners who are usually members of medical aid schemes. The private sector also attracts most of the country’s health professionals as it tends to offer higher salaries and better working conditions.

This two-tiered system is inequitable and to some degree inaccessible to a large section of the population, says Dr Wagner.

“As someone who works in the public sector I think that a lot of the money is being diverted to the private sector that could be better utilised in a more equitable way within the public sector,” said Dr Wagner.

Strategic collaboration

“In the public sector the emphasis is on how you ensure you produce quality healthcare that is value for money, and we at Frere have demonstrated that it’s possible to provide that. For me the benefits (of NHI) are that we will be remunerated on the number of patients which is far more equitable so we get money which is more in-line with our quality of care,” said Dr Wagner.

It will be vital to establish partnerships with the private sector to ensure the success of NHI.

“Partnerships between the public and private sectors are of strategic importance. The private sector generally tends to be over-resourced and is perceived to provide better quality care compared with the public sector; whilst the public sector is perceived to be comparatively inefficient and is reported to provide sub-optimal care,” said Dr Wagner.

“The private sector on the one hand pursues capital, mainly for their shareholders, and therefore has a focus on cost-effective service provision; whilst the public sector pursues social capital, the beneficiaries being the general public,” continued Dr Wagner.

“Strategic partnerships can result in better utilisation of available scarce resources and more cost-effective strategies being deployed in both sectors. Similarly, through collaboration both sectors can unite in tackling the burden of disease we face as a country. We are blessed that in the East London we have a collegiate relationship with our private sector and are already discussing ways of optimising our relative strengths to benefit the people we serve.”

Skills capacity is key

However, for NHI to be a success the country will have to do much more to address the doctor shortages, noted Dr Wagner. The doctor-to-population ratio is estimated to be 0.77 per 1,000. But because the majority of GPs – over 70% – work in the private sector, some suggestions are that there is in actual fact just one practising doctor for every 4,200 people.

A recent study by consulting firm Econex for the Hospital Association of SA notes that up to 17% of newly qualified doctors might be emigrating, while up to 80% doctors prefer not to work for the state because of poor working conditions.

Dr Wagner concludes that the primary and high school education system, particularly maths and science, needs to be improved to boost the number of doctors in the country.


Source: eHealthnews

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Emergency services crisis in Diepsloot
2017-03-2317:03:52 PM

By: James Thabo Molelekwa                      Published on: 22 March 2017

Source: Health-e News

The community of Diepsloot – a densely populated township in northern Johannesburg – is battling against a shortage of clinics and ambulances that serve the area.Diepsloot and the surrounding areas, with a combined population of well over 80 000 people, are serviced by only two clinics and two ambulances.

Speaking on behalf of the community, Scelo Shezi – community leader in ward 95, said people have to wait up to four hours for an ambulance call out to the area.

“We do have an emergency centre here in Diepsloot, but it cannot cope. There are not enough ambulances to service the population of the township.”


According to Shezi, more public healthcare services were desperately needed.

“It is really a challenge for us. It would be better if our EMS centre had another four or five ambulances,” Shezi said.

He added that conditions generally worsened at month end. He said on many occasions people could call for an ambulance, and receive no response at all. Or the ambulance would only arrive after several hours had passed.

“This is really frustrating the community, because when the two ambulances are out delivering patients to hospitals, other people who have emergencies are forced to wait for hours for the ambulances to return,” said Shezi.

Overcrowded clinics

According to Shezi, ambulances are not the only problem. The local clinics are also overcrowded and unable to cope with the demands of the area they serve.

“We cannot be serviced by just two clinics for a population of about 80 000. We need more clinics.”

He said the OR Tambo clinic alone received about 9000 patients per month, despite the operating hours being from 8am to 4pm.

“But you find that sometimes the clinic closes at 8pm because of the high number of patients that need to be attended to,” Shezi explained.

The community leadership of Dieplsoot is in the process of addressing the matter with the Department of Health. They are asking that the OR Tambo Clinic be made a 24-hour operation.

“We need a facility that will operate around the clock. We are currently engaging with the DoH to ensure that it happens.”

There is high unemployment in Diepsloot, meaning that most residents are reliant on the public health care services and cannot afford to go to private doctors in the township. The demands placed on the local clinics and emergency services are therefore high.

Poor response time

The national target for the supply of ambulances in South Africa is one ambulance per 10 000 people. This is far from what is supplied in Diepsloot.

Arnold Lesiba Malotana, the CEO of Emergency Management Services in Gauteng, admitted that the ambulance response times in Diepsloot were poor, but there were reasons for this.

“There are several reasons which include the lack of hospitals in that area. Kalafong and Helen Joseph Hospitals are far away, which results in long travel distances and turnaround times for the ambulance to be available. There is also a massive volume of calls in the area, including non-emergency calls, which the department finds itself servicing,” said Malotana.

Malotana said the department planned to buy 150 new ambulances this year, but this was subject to Bid Adjudication Committee approval.

He said Johannesburg EMS had been called on to increase the number of staff and allocated vehicles to the Diepsloot Fire Station and as soon as there was suitable infrastructure in place, he said.

Source: Health-e News

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