New look for health ministry’s website

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A spelling error in a Google search for the Department of Healths website, which reads The Natinal Department of Health. Many sections of the website are blank as part of a redesign to ensure its user-friendliness. Picture: Handout/Supplied

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As part of a redesign, the website (doh.gov.za) has been stripped bare of many documents, including nfant-feeding guidelines, prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission and some tenders.

Health spokesman Joe Maila stressed that this was a temporary situation as the website was being redesigned and was a work in progress.

Andy Gray is a pharmacist and senior lecturer at the department of therapeutics and medicines management at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine. He also runs an email list service for thousands of health professionals, and often consults the website as both an expert moderator and lecturer.

“I often direct students to the site, in part to find out what is new; for instance, what senior officials are saying or doing and any new documents that are coming out,” Gray says.

“I also look at the tenders for what’s being tendered, at what prices, and what has been included.”

Now Gray says many of the website’s previous sections, including those that listed resources or detailed the latest figures for legally notifiable diseases, are blank.

Legally notifiable diseases are illnesses that medical professionals must report to the government in order to help the country to monitor and control conditions like polio, haemorrhagic fevers or measles. Without this kind of information publicly available, Gray questioned the point of having this system at all.

“The last time they revised the website, documents were lost, and those are no longer available. It really scares me that someone has not filed away all those pdfs… that they are genuinely lost.”

But Maila said:

“We are refreshing the website to strengthen its ‘look and feel’ while ensuring that it becomes user- friendly… We are experiencing challenges, but we are working around the clock to ensure that all the necessary documents are on the site.”

He added that while other departments have issued tenders for hundreds of thousands of rand for the development and maintenance of websites, the Department of Health has used internal staff for the redesign. – Health-e News Service

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