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Continued exodus of medical specialists

The Free State is dismayed at the continued exodus of medical specialists from the Free State Provincial Department of Health. It is with regret that we have learned today of the immediate resignation of the Head of Radiology within the Department and at the Faculty for Medicine at the University of the Free State, Professor Coert de Vries.

We were cautiously optimistic when the former MEC for Health, Dr Benny Malakoane, was removed from this crucial portfolio and replaced by MEC Butana Komphela. The DA hoped that the continued politicisation of public health services in the Free State would come to an end, sadly that hope was in vain.

In 2014, several cardiologists left the employ of the Department citing political interference and intimidation by officials in the execution of their tasks. Their exit subsequently saw the cardiology unit closed at the Universitas Academic Hospital, forcing students to complete their studies at other universities. Heart patients were then sent for private treatment at the Rosepark Hospital at huge additional cost to the taxpayer.

Prof De Vries cites wilful sabotage and intimidation by officials, most notably by Dr Benganga, as reason for his immediate resignation. In one instance Dr Benganga reportedly prevented Prof De Vries from proceeding with surgery on a patient already under anaesthetic in July last year. There was subsequently a court order against Dr Benganga which the Department has ignored.

I have today written to MEC Komphela asking him to provide us with a full disclosure on the reasons for Prof De Vries’ resignation and what steps he will take to ensure the continued treatment of patients at the Universitas Academic Hospital. The DA would also like to ascertain if MEC Komphela will investigate Dr Benganga for his continued destructive behaviour in violation of a court order.

It goes to show that no matter who the ANC deploys to be the MEC for Health in the Free State, people’s lives will be put at risk due to political interference and a lack of accountability by politicians and officials alike. There is only one way to improve public health in this province and that is for the people to vote DA. The DA prides itself in improving the access as well as the quality of public healthcare services where we govern in the Western Cape. The Western Cape Provincial Department of Health is the best governed in South Africa.

The COSATU-affiliated Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) has settled its 2017 wage negotiations in the footwear sector. The agreement was finalised last Wednesday, under the auspices of the National Bargaining Council for the Leather Manufacturing Industry of South Africa.