Residents of Upington and the surrounding areas are hopeful that the implementation of National Health Insurance (NHI) will address the many healthcare inefficiencies in the area and the pleaded with the Portfolio Committee on Health for the speedy implementation of the Bill.

In his opening remarks, the Chairperson of the committee, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, said that the Bill speaks directly to Section 27 of the Constitution, which states that every citizen has the right to quality health care. The bill therefore aims to provide equal and quality health coverage to the people of South Africa, irrespective of their economic circumstances. 

Inputs received during the committee’s public concerned an ineffective healthcare system that has not been of any benefit to Upington or the communities of Keimoes and Riemvasmaak nearby. The committee heard that the District Hospital in Upington has been so severely understaffed that people wait hours for help and on many occasions do not get to see a doctor at all and are told to come back the following day.

Throughout the hearing, residents pleaded with the committee for assistance in addressing the dire state of healthcare, where there is only one ambulance available in areas such as Keimoes and Kakemas. Others from Riemvasmaak told the committee that they have no ambulance at all, since ambulance officials refuse to drive over the gravel road, a problem they have been asking for help to resolve for a number of years. 

Residents said that the envisaged approach for the NHI in the Northern Cape should take in to consideration the large distances between areas and the number of small towns in the province. It should further look at human resources, as many times residents find there are no doctors available and the few nurses who are available are overworked or busy with administrative issues.   

Keimoes resident Ms Andretta Jacobs said that mental health is often a neglected area. In many cases she said, children are labeled as “naughty” or “disruptive”, but these are often driven by underlying mental health issues which goes undiagnosed. Ms Jacobs said that people need to have access to facilities where assessments and early diagnosis can be made and this, she said, is something that the Bill needs to address.

In thanking the people for their attendance and participation, Dr Dhlomo assured them that the committee will process their submissions. “We appreciate your submissions and be assured that all of them will be considered,” reiterated Dr Dhlomo. He told the Department of Health officials who attended the hearings to improve the service they render to the people. “Do your level best on the available resources,” he added.

Felicia Lombard
04 November 2019