It is a tragedy that mothers and babies are dying in Mpumalanga as a result of a freeze on vacant funded posts, charged the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the province.
Inadequate access to health facilities
"With the spot light on women on International Women's Day, we urge the health department to take urgent action to improve healthcare for women and children," DA MPL and spokesperson on health and social development Jane Sithole told Health24.
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She pointed out that the health department’s second quarterly report revealed that the maternal mortality rate increased from 77.5/100 000 deaths in the second quarter of the 2014/15 financial year to a staggering 135.3/100 000 deaths in 2015/16.
Similarly, the infant mortality rate increased during the same period from 10.8/1000 to 13.6/1000.
The report attributes the maternal mortality rate increase to inadequate access to health facilities. Alarmingly, it goes on to state that due to a shortage of staff, only 77% of live births could be attended to by skilled health personnel.
The increase in the infant mortality rate has also been attributed to a shortage of skilled health professionals such as paediatricians.
"More mothers and babies are dying in Mpumalanga Province, while the Health Department shows lack of leadership and foresight," said Sithole.
Inability to manage taxpayers’ money
Although Mpumalanga’s health department has been in a critical condition for a long time, she said the situation has become dire since Gillion Mashego took over as MEC.
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"It is clear that he does not have the people of Mpumalanga’s health interests at heart because under his leadership, it is becoming increasingly difficult for our people to access healthcare," said Sithole.
"It is unacceptable that MEC Mashego and the ANC-led government’s inability to manage taxpayers’ money has led to unnecessary deaths of babies and mothers in Mpumalanga. The Provincial Executive Committee must urgently lift the freeze on the Health Department’s vacant funded positions before they end up with even more blood on their hands."
Provincial health spokesperson Dumisani Malamule told Health24 looking at the baby and mom mortality rate on a quarterly basis gives a skewed figure.
"The department is using the quarters as an internal measure to keep ourselves on top of the programme instead of waiting for the annual data and then start acting on the challenges," he said.
"However, as a department we believe that a death of a one woman is one death too many because we strive in ensuring that no woman should die while bringing life, hence a turnaround strategy was developed to reduce the number of maternal and child mortality in the province."
Malamule said the department has managed to headhunt and appoint specialists who were allocated as district clinical specialist teams.
These include three obstetric and gynaecologists, two paediatricians, two anaesthetists and nine advanced trained nurses in midwifery and child care.
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"[They] are visiting all district hospitals and primary health care facilities in the province with an aim of imparting skills to all health care workers in the health care management of women and children," he said.
One of the challenges that the department is facing is that pregnant women come too late for antenatal classes, said Malamule.
"As a department we emphasise and request all pregnant women to present themselves at least before they reach their 20 weeks of their pregnancy, and the earlier the better."
He said some women would only come once for antenatal care services and thereafter only present themselves for delivery at the hospitals, yet they are supposed to return for antenatal care according to the schedule that they will be given by their healthcare workers based on their health conditions.
Malamule added that sick children are also brought too late for health intervention by care givers.
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