| Mkhize: National health dept not looking to take control of Eastern Cape | Mkhize: National health dept not looking to take control of Eastern Cape | Mkhize: National health dept not looking to take control of Eastern Cape

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  • Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said he was comfortable with how the Eastern Cape was responding to Covid-19.
  • This is despite mounting calls from the public and politicians asking him to take over the running of the province’s hospitals.
  • The province’s overwhelmed hospitals have been in disarray and the department dogged by blunders amid a surge in cases of Covid-19.

The national Department of Health is not thinking about taking over the administration of the Eastern Cape health department.

This was the announcement made by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to journalists in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.

He was responding to growing calls for his department to place the provincial department under administration due to the state of public hospitals in the province.

Mkhize said he was comfortable with how the province was running its health services.

“Some of the members of the Parliament have been asking us to take over the provincial administration of the province or the department of health, we are not there yet. We are not thinking about it.

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“The reason being that you take over when you get to a point where there is a whole breakdown of the management; reluctance in following directives and instructions and there has been an internal inability for people to cooperate to an extend, that you are left with no choice but to actually take over,” said Mkhize.

There have been mounting calls from the public and politicians for Mkhize to take over.

This comes as a team from the national department led by Mkhize’s adviser Dr Sibongile Zungu was sent to the Eastern Cape to offer support and report weekly to Mkhize.

“We don’t believe that [taking over] is what we need to do here. What we needed to do here is reinforce which is what we have done. The team [Project Management Unit] is not here forever. They are just going to help us deal with specific things.”


But Mkhize warned the Eastern Cape government about obstructing Zungu’s team’s work.

“If they feel there is any form of obstruction, they will pick up a call and say ‘we think this is not gonna work’, then of course we will start having the conversation,” warned Mkhize.

Mkhize said he was pleased with the strides made by Premier Oscar Mabuyane and Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba.

“I had the assurance from the premier and the MEC and the SG [Superintendent General for health Dr Thobile Mbengashe] outlining what all their responsibilities are going to be in trying to put things into place.

“So I am quite fine with that because they have a responsibility to run the department. Our responsibility is to make sure they do and, in this case, we’re still quite comfortable that they will be able to do that. We will just make sure the things happen,” said Mkhize.

READ | Eastern Cape’s Covid-19 nightmare could see 9 000 ‘unavoidable’ deaths, say experts

Mabuyane told journalists at a media briefing on Tuesday that Zungu’s team was not taking over, but was merely offering support to the provincial health department.

Mkhize said: “We sent the team here because when the numbers began to surge, we picked up this shortfall in the province and said let’s send people there. It’s a second time we are sending a team.”

Mkhize admitted that oxygen piping was a major problem at Livingstone hospital, for example.

News24 reported that at Livingstone, patients reportedly fought over oxygen, while at Dora Nginza hospital, patients including pregnant women slept on the floor.

Elsewhere in the province, various hospitals had been rocked by a series of staff protests over a lack of personal protective equipment amid rising Covid-19 infection among nurses and doctors.

This week, Mabuyane reiterated that the provincial government was not going under administration.

Speaking during one of his weekly media briefings, on Tuesday, Mabuyane said: “I must hasten to add that the provincial department of health is not under administration. The PMU team will work closely with the HOD of Health and will have a direct line to the premier for regular updates and to raise any issues that need the attention and decisions of cabinet.”

He admitted that lack of oxygen was an existing problem. This was initially denied by Mbengashe in an interview with News24 two weeks.

Mabuyane said: “Oxygen has emerged as a critical resource during this pandemic. At the present moment oxygen storage for our vast province is in Nelson Mandela Bay. This is an untenable situation for the provision of quality healthcare to our people. We are working with Afrox to establish bulk oxygen tanks in all 19 district hospitals in our province to fully address the shortage of oxygen.”  

As of statistics released on Tuesday, the province has 66 759 infections, 945 deaths and 47 263 recoveries.  

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