President notes strides made in health provision

Friday, February 6, 2009

Parliament - President Kgalema Motlanthe has noted that the country has made significant strides in health provision over the past 15 years.

Delivering his first State of the Nation Address to a joint sitting of parliament on Friday, President Motlanthe said for example, there were improvements with regard to access to primary health facilities.

Free healthcare was initially limited to pregnant and lactating mothers and children under six, but was extended in 1996 to cover primary healthcare services for all.

The President said: "95 percent of South Africans now live within 5 kilometres of a health facility; and we are informed that all clinics now have access to potable water.

"Child immunisation coverage has steadily increased to about 85 percent; and malaria cases have massively declined."

Government regulations have helped reduce micronutrient deficiencies, with significant impact on the lives and well-being of children.

A reduction of childhood mortality and illness from vaccine-preventable diseases has been driven through government's immunisation programme.

On HIV and AIDS, the President said government was also heartened that research into HIV prevalence demonstrates stabilisation and a slight reduction in rates of infection.

"Our antiretroviral treatment programme is not only the largest in the world but expanding all the time.

"Over 690 000 patients have been initiated on antiretroviral treatment since the commencement of the programme," the President said.

The prevention strategies saw the rate of increase among the youth in infected slowed further as well as in women between 20 and 24 years of age over a two year period.

On Tuberculosis (TB) control and the implementation of the TB Strategic Plan, 20 percent of health facilities now have TB tracing teams as part of government efforts to reduce the TB defaulter rate from 10 percent to 7 percent in line with the target set during last year's State of the Nation Address.

A number of health professionals were also trained on TB management including 128 people trained on infection control, 604 on the use of the electronic TB register, 177 on data management and 2211 on the clinical management of TB.

Although these strides have been made, President Motlanthe acknowledged that many health facilities did not always have the required medicines, appropriate staffing levels and constant supply of basic services such as clean running water and electricity.

He emphasised that some of the facilities including poor management and staff attitudes needed improvement.