HEALTH MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa was shocked when a pregnant 16-year-old said she had no idea what family planning was.
Ramokgopa was on a walkabout in the antenatal room at Kalafong Hospital.
The MEC saw the shy young pregnant girl in the ward and asked her how she was doing and what she knew about family planning. “I do not know much about family planning,” she admitted.
Ramokgopa then remarked that at her age, the teenager should be well aware, and that her lack of knowledge was the reason for her visit to the hospital.
Ramokgopa also asked how she was coping and if the services she received at the facility were good.
The MEC advised the ward management to classify and add data of teenage pregnancy as high risk among the community.
Ramokgopa visited the Atteridgeville hospital in the early hours of Tuesday morning to monitor service delivery at the facility and create awareness on teenage pregnancy.
Ramokgopa interacted with staff, but mainly focused on young patients, and visited the casualty and antenatal wards.
She asked patients and staff what they wished the department could help them with, and took note of service delivery complaints against the hospital.
Ramokgopa, who was joined by hospital chief executive Manei Letebele, said the visit came after she received complaints from young people that the health system was not youth-friendly.
“We are trying to get the feeling of young people in terms of using our health system,” Ramokgopa said.
She walked in and out of wards introducing herself and asking: “How can I make your stay or work easier?”
Among the issues that emerged was the need for more staff, a shortage of beds and long waiting times.
Ramokgopa said she noticed several patients who were not that sick but had waited too long to be told so. She said this was because hospitals mainly prioritised and attended first to those with life-threatening injuries or more serious issues. She advised people to use district hospitals near them to receive sufficient service.
From there, the MEC went to Makgwaraneng Primary School for the health and teenage learner pregnancy programme.
She adopted Makgwaraneng as well as Matseke Primary School and Walton Jameson Primary School for the 2019 school year to promote the campaigns. She used the platform to create awareness around the high teenage pregnancy in the capital and to understand the pressure schools had with teenage pregnancy.
According to her, the department had noted an exceedingly high number of young girls between ages of 10 and 19 years who delivered babies in Tshwane clinics and hospitals. There was also a high number of termination of pregnancies by choice performed by the same age group.
The MEC also spent time with the Grade R and Grade 7 pupils to give them an insight into how health played a role in their lives. She told them to look after their bodies and to wait to have sex, which leads to teenage pregnancy. “Your bodies are not ready to have babies, please wait,” she told Grade 7 pupils.
The MEC delivered a stern warning to those responsible for impregnating teenage girls. “I have committed my office to help these schools to make sure we pick areas where we can support them. I am going to also go past their kitchen to have a look at their diet and how we can improve it.”