Bumps on the road to health for all

We all know that parliament is the place where the representatives of the people gather to make decisions that affect the lives of the people who put them there, but it can often feel like those representatives on the plush seats and silent halls are far removed from the day to day reality of their constituents.

This week in the Portfolio Committee meeting, the reality of life in the Eastern Cape was brought home very forcefully.

The Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Coalition came to the Portfolio Committee with an impassioned plea to help fix the province’s collapsing health system. The meeting was part of their high-profile campaign for better public health services in the Eastern Cape.

The meeting followed on from the hard-hitting report it released in September, detailing the hardship facing many of the province’s patients, prompting swift intervention from Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Last week the Minister and newly appointed head of health in the Eastern Cape Thobile Mbengashe briefed MP’s on their plans for tackling the crisis.

The activists said their plan was vague, had not been budgeted for and did not go far enough. You can read the response they presented to the Portfolio Committee here: http://www.section27.org.za/2013/11/06/the-eastern-cape-health-crisis-action-coalition-echac-analysis-of-the-ecdohs-plan

I am inspired by the courage of people who are prepared to stand up for the rights of those who are less privileged than themselves. Sasha Stevenson from Section 27, a member of the Coalition, had no qualms about saying what was wrong, but she also said that they were more than willing to work with government to find a solution.

Sadly, attempts to meet Eastern Cape health MEC Sicelo Gqobana had been repeatedly rebuffed. And here is where the Portfolio Committee stepped in. the Chairman and a former MEC for health in the Eastern Cape, Bevan Goqwana, undertook to broker a meeting between the coalition and the MEC.

So let’s hope this is the first step in really making a difference in the Eastern Cape. After all, everyone in our country deserves to have a health system that works.

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