President Jacob Zuma, Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas doing the walk about during the official opening of the new Dr Harry Surtie Hospital in Upington,Northern Cape. 02/09/2014 Kopano Tlape GCIS

Kimberley - The official opening of the Dr Harry Surtie Hospital in Upington has moved the people of South Africa a step closer to meeting the goals of the Freedom Charter which, among others, includes access to free quality health care services managed by the State, President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the opening of the R1 billion health care facility which is located in the ZF Mgcawu district, Zuma said that “building decent health facilities is designed to move us a step forward in meeting (the Freedom Charter) goals”.

“Today (Tuesday) is a day of celebration as we open a modern state-of-the-art hospital. Our people in 1955 said in the Freedom Charter that there shall be houses, security and comfort.

“A preventive health scheme shall be run by the State; free medical care and hospitalisation shall be provided for all, with special care for mothers and young children,” Zuma said as he quoted the charter.

The Freedom Charter is an ANC document which was adopted at the Congress of the People in Kliptown on June 26 1955.

Zuma pointed out that each day the government strived to achieve the goals set out in the charter and which are institutionalised in the economic rights spelt out in the Constitution of the Republic.

“Our founding President Nelson Mandela achieved the goal of free health care, especially for mothers and young children. We are currently working hard to bring into operation the National Health Service, a preventive health scheme that will ensure that quality health care is available to all regardless of economic or financial means. Together we will move our country forward to security and comfort for all,” Zuma said.

He indicated that the government would continue to write a good story in the lives of its people through the delivery of services, especially to the vulnerable in our society.

“Over the past five years, 300 new health facilities have been built, including 160 new clinics. Our good story also includes the remarkable achievements in the fight against HIV and Aids, which was once a crisis of unimaginable proportions in our country. The HIV and Aids turnaround is one of the biggest achievements of the ANC government in the past five years.

“Globally, South Africa is used as a model country by the United Nations Aids Programmes (UNAIDS) on the field. Our mother to child transmission of HIV has declined sharply, and we continue to increase the number of people who are receiving anti-retroviral treatment. More South Africans continue to take their HIV tests since the launch of the campaign in 2011, which is another accolade in our health care services,” Zuma said.

He added that his administration was committed to ensuring that at least 4.6 million people were enrolled in the anti-retroviral programme.

“I urge all of us to continue spreading the prevention message. The fact that this government provides treatment does not mean that people should stop behaving responsibly. The ABC message remains in force, namely Abstain, Be Faithful or Use a Condom,” Zuma added.

Turning back to the new hospital, Zuma urged the management to ensure that quality health care is provided at the facility because “the lives of our people are in your hands”.

“For our government to succeed, a renewed spirit in health care services provision needs to be reborn. The lives of our people are in your hands. The success of this state-of-the-art equipment is in your hands too! Hospital management must be astute and enforce effective systems in place to deal with maintenance and servicing of the equipment.

“We must keep our promise of improving the lives of the people, especially the vulnerable in South Africa as Dr Harry Surtie, after whom the hospital is named, did. True to the spirit of comradeship in the ANC, an organisation which I represent, Dr Surtie always put the interests of people first. As a dentist he gave assistance to people who could not afford treatment. We dare not fail him,” Zuma said.

He added that there would be a transfer of hospital services from the old Gordonia Hospital to the new Dr Harry Surtie Hospital.

“Over the recent years the old Gordonia Hospital had been offering a combination of district services with limited regional hospital services.”

Zuma also said that since his administration has prioritised economic growth and job creation, “I am pleased to note that the construction of this hospital not only offered health services, but provided an opportunity as well to create both direct and indirect jobs to the surrounding areas.

“Many people in and around the area of Upington continue to benefit, and economic growth and development shows positive trends,” he added.

Zuma said that through the Health Departments’ Service Transformation Plan (STP) government was committed to the reconfiguration of services to ensure a larger proportion of the population have appropriate access to district, regional and tertiary hospital services.

“The expansion of regional services in the new Dr Harry Surtie Hospital will reduce referrals to Kimberley and improve local access to more specialist services. The former TB ward and Boiler House at the old Gordonia Hospital is in the process of being converted into a Rescue Training Centre and will focus on high building, cliff, mine and water rescue training.”

He added that the country’s successes continue to exist side by side with challenges.

“Alcohol abuse, especially amongst women, is a major concern in this part of our country. Numerous reports have documented how alcohol abuse is intertwined with other difficulties such as HIV and Aids, poverty and domestic violence. Sadly, the levels of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder are among the highest in the world, especially in this Province as well as in the Western Cape.

“We need to continue engaging on awareness and prevention programmes in order to turn the tide against it,” Zuma added.

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