Bold plans to improve Gauteng healthcare

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pretoria - The Gauteng provincial government has turned to technology to improve the healthcare system.

Delivering the State of the Province on Monday, Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said patients they planned to send text messages to patients reminding them of their appointments. Patients' files will also be retrieved the day before to ensure a speedy service.

"We have heard the concerns raised by our people on the difficulties they encounter in accessing our hospitals and other health institutions and we are taking concrete steps to address them, including eliminating the long queues that we find in some of our facilities," she said.

The premier said that in the last six months, the availability of medication has improved from 85 to 92 percent through improved monitoring and weekly recording of stock-outs. The province aims to achieve its target of 99 percent availability of essential drugs for each facility.

In additions to these measures, two mobile therapeutic vehicles have been procured and commissioned to be used for emergency deliveries of medication to both hospitals and clinics.

Mokonyane said the province will also strengthen the Community Based Health Services (CBHS) by creating health jobs within each voting district while community health workers will take their services into communities. It is expected that each worker will help between 50 and 150 households.

In the Ekurhuleni area three health posts will be established in the 2010/11 financial year, and the number of fully trained community health workers will be increased by training 3000 new workers bringing the total to 6500.

The premier said there were currently 95 primary health care facilities with extended service hours, including 81 clinics and 14 community healthcare centres.

Over a three-year period the province will extend hours of service with the number of community health centres operating on a 24-hour basis increased from 18 to 26 (out of a total of 34) in 2010-11.

Also receiving urgent attention is improving emergency medical services.
"We have decided to streamline the EMS to create a single line of command which will improve efficiencies with respect to response times, better utilisation of vehicles and monitoring of services," she said.

Gauteng in the past six months has procured an additional 115 ambulances, including two ICU ambulances and 15 rapid response vehicles. Paramedic personnel have also been appointed, including 10 advanced life support paramedics, and 23 emergency care technicians.

"These interventions will help to improve response times," she said.
Mokonyane said an additional 121 ambulances, medical equipment and accessories have been procured for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

"This will leave a legacy that will in future cater for similar events and increase the capacity of emergency medical services," said Mokonyane.

The provincial government has also launched the Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS in November. The plan aims to reduce new infections and to achieve a target of 50 percent reduction in new infections by 2011 and prevent death from AIDS by extending treatment.

"The number of eligible people for antiretroviral treatment has increased from 185 126 in the last financial year to 226 253, whilst the number of children on treatment has increased from 16 029 in 2008/09 to 18 869 in the first six months of 2009/10," she said.

Additionally three facilities will be accredited to provide antiretroviral treatment in December 2010. The challenge however is the shortage of skilled personnel and infrastructure.

All HIV positive pregnant women will be on treatment at 14 weeks of pregnancy to protect their unborn babies. Antiretroviral treatment will also be administered on children younger than one year old if they test HIV positive irrespective of their CD4 count.

"We will increase access to anti-retroviral therapy from 247 000 people in December 2009 to 400 000 by March 2011," Mokonyane said.