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Johannesburg - A lack of doctors caused the death of a patient at the Johan Heyns community health centre (CHC) in Vanderbijlpark on Friday, nursing union Denosa said.

“Denosa is appalled that a life was lost because of the so called 'cost containment measures' introduced by the Gauteng department of health,” the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA said in a statement.

It said because of the measures, doctors were not available during the week at CHC centres, which operated 24 hours a day.

“We have long said that the unavailability of doctors is putting the lives of the community at risk, and also tramples on the constitutional rights of citizens to a quality health care service,” Denosa said.

“The department of health is also misleading the communities, because they claim to be rendering a 24-hour health service, whereas they are not even resourced to do so.”

Provincial health spokesman Chris Maxon said the department conveyed its condolences to the family of the patient.

“The department will get to the bottom of the matter to find out who was not at work, when supposed to, and what led to the death of the said patient, in order to assist the family find closure,” he said.

“However, it must be pointed out that the statement by Denosa is devoid of facts and truth.”

He said cost containment measures had nothing to do with ensuring full coverage.

“ 1/8Also 3/8, the backbone of primary health care are nurses, not doctors, as the statement seeks to suggest.” - Sapa