South Africa

Op-Ed: Rural Western Cape residents not left behind in health services

By Nomafrench Mbombo 25 June 2017

Over and above the good work that HealthNet services does, we were still faced with the further challenge of patients waiting in unsafe waiting areas for the transport. We have since identified safe areas where patients can wait for the transport. We achieved this with the help of community consultation. Our hard-working district staff have been working tirelessly to ensure that all pick-up points are indeed safe. By NOMAFRENCH MBOMBO.

No one is left behind in the delivery of health services in the Western Cape including rural residents. Our focus is patient-centred-care and ensuring that those we serve are indeed our first priority. Giving access to quality health care is our core business and we endeavour to improve patient experience.

It was therefore crucial that we listen and ensure that rural residents who struggle to access health services at district and central hospital level are heard.

We have now expanded and improved our HealthNet service. This service provides transport from rural areas to referral facilities in bigger centres. This ensures equal access of health care services to all Western Cape Province residents. We have approximately 230 pick-up points across the province, picking up 150,000 patients per annum and we have set aside about R90- million for this service.

While travelling across the province, one of the things that hit me and required my immediate attention was patients that waited in unsafe areas for transport to take them to referral hospitals in Cape town, George, Oudtshoorn, Beaufort West and Worcester.

These patients come from our rural districts such as Cape Winelands, Central Karoo, Overberg and Eden to get medical treatment in Cape Town or at any of our District Hospitals.

This is not our core business but an additional service over and above the Emergency service offered by our ambulances for patients in need of emergency care.

As government it is crucial that we respond to the need of each area with a unique solution that is fit for purpose. The lack of public transport infrastructure in the rural areas calls for a responsive government that does not only look at their core function but responds according to the needs of its people.

In the past patients paid large amounts of money to reach these facilities across the province. Income that could otherwise be used for their households had to be channelled for transport to access health care.

With the HealthNet services, patients are collected and dropped off at various pick up points throughout the province. We have a fleet of vehicles in various formations to transport people according to their service needs (sitting as well as stretcher patients). HealthNet also provides specialist vehicles such as larger capacity transporters as well as wheel chair lift vehicles.

The comfort of patients is a priority as many travel more than 200km to Cape Town.

Over and above the good work that HealthNet services does, we were still faced with the further challenge of patients waiting in unsafe waiting areas for the transport.  We have since identified safe areas where patients can wait for the transport. We achieved this with the help of community consultation. Our hard-working district staff have been working tirelessly to ensure that all pick-up points are indeed safe.

I must note that such a service requires a co-ordinated effort. Thanks to our Rural Hub Managers based in Cape Town who ensure that these patients are accommodated in the transport going back to their district and our EMS and District Management for going the extra mile for our patients.

The Western Cape Health Department prides itself in delivering services in all parts of the Western Cape, putting the patients first. DM

Dr Nomafrench Mbombo is Western Cape Health MEC

Photo: Wool weaver Mietjie Witboy, 59, sits outside her tiny house with some of her dogs as she weaves wool in the small Karoo town of Nieu-Bethesda, South Africa, 10 November 2014. EPA/KIM LUDBROOK

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