Phaahla appoints Prof Taole Mokoena as new Health Ombud

Friday, June 2, 2023
Prof Mokoena.

Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, on Thursday announced the appointment of the new Health Ombudsman, Professor Taole Resetselemang Mokoena, effective from 1 June 2023.

This comes after the country’s first Health Ombud, Professor Malekgapuru Makgoba, bowed out of office after his seven-year tenure ended on 31 May 2023.

Phaahla described the incoming Health Ombud as one of the most “outstanding” South African medical scholars, who has transcended the globe to show the quality of South Africa‘s academic prowess.

Mokoena, who is the retired Head of Surgery from the University of Pretoria, will take on the job that seeks to protect and promote the health and safety of users of health services.

Mokoena is a medical graduate of the University of Natal, a Doctor of Philosophy graduate of the University of Oxford and a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

His clinical and research interests, according to Phaahla, encompass immunology, oncology and endocrinology.

“He continues his work on a part-time or sessional basis to teach, train and supervise undergraduate and postgraduate medical students and research,” said Phaahla.

Mokoena is active in academic and professional leadership, having served on a number of professional bodies like the South African Medical Association (SAMA), the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA), and College of Surgeons of South Africa (CSSA).

He was appointed as panel chair for the investigation of surgical deaths at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in 1996 and 1997.

He also probed the discrimination within the cardiology department at the same hospital.

“This track record gives credence to his appointment as the new Health Ombud, armed with experience in investigations and inquiries in wrongdoing and injustices in the healthcare sector," said Phaahla.

The Minister said he was confident that Mokoena would execute his work with diligence and an absolute sense of justice, eschewing impartiality and no prejudice. 

“We wish him success in his new responsibility and assure him of unparalleled support at all material times.”

In the same breath, Phaahla thanked Mokoena’s predecessor, Makgoba, who was bestowed with the daunting task of establishing this office as the first South African Health Ombud.

Phaahla said Makgoba displayed his patriotism and commitment to creating an improved healthcare service in the country.

“He impartially, and with no favour or prejudice, investigated complaints brought to his office and made recommendations that are invaluable to the health system in the country.”

Some of the high profile investigations conducted under his leadership include Life Esidimeni, involving mental health patients, Tembisa Hospital and the recent Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital.

“Professor Makgoba did not only attend to high profile complaints but also spent a huge amount of his term following on the complaints of ordinary people who visit our healthcare facilities,” said Phaahla.

Mokoena took the time to pay tribute to Makgoba for charting the path of this new office and thanked the Minister for his appointment.

“I know I was reluctant but because you’re the boss. When the boss asks, even if you hesitate, you ask how high I should jump and here I am now.”

Mokoena, who referred to himself as “fresh blood”, said he hopes that he will elevate the office to greater heights.

“The office of the Ombud is a big challenge for a variety of reasons… including the difficulties the health system is undergoing currently. We have limited resources, yet we have a growing population.”

However, to deliver quality healthcare, despite limited resources, people must receive the care they deserve.

In addition, Mokoena said it was important that the office of the Ombud should have a listening ear. –