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Cape Town - The Public Protector picked up complaints of racial discrimination, poor staff attitudes and shortages of ambulances and medicine during unannounced visits to health-care facilities in Paarl and Cape Town.
Briefing members of the provincial legislature on Thursday night, following a recent visit to Phola Park clinic in Paarl and Paarl Hospital, Thuli Madonsela said staff attitudes were a big concern at Phola Park.
“I’m asking that this be looked at, at the level of government in this province, because it was raised very sharply. It wasn’t just people complaining that staff were rude and discourteous, particularly at Phola Park.
“There was a general complaint even when we came back here, that there was issues of racial discrimination or perceived racial discrimination… People felt there was a racial hierarchy in these hospitals.”
Madonsela said Health MEC Theuns Botha undertook to investigate whether the problems were a matter of perceptions or a reality.
The Public Protector stressed her presentation was not based on formal findings but merely her and her team’s observations during their visit.
“The broad issues were the problem of waiting times at hospitals and response times for ambulances. There was also a shortage of medicines and equipment, and in some instances there were complaints that there was not enough staff at Phola Park clinic in Paarl.”
Madosela had only praise for the facilities at Paarl Hospital, saying it was one of the most well-managed places they had come across.
Other issues raised were allegations of ill-treatment of patients by staff, queues and in some cases racism. There were also complaints about general service delivery.
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille commended the public protector and her team on the feedback: “We believe in consistent and constant improvement, and if a single person has to suffer unnecessarily because services aren’t delivered at an adequate level, that is one person too many in this province and we would like to fix that.”
ANC MPL Pierre Uys thanked Madonsela for her positive feedback, saying: “I’m ANC and we actually started Paarl Hospital.”
Madonsela’s visits formed part of her office’s national stakeholder dialogue, which aims to strengthen the government’s ability to deliver on the Millennium Development Goals with specific focus on improving health and reducing hunger and poverty.