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Eastern Cape Health MEC asks community to guard new R680-million Sipetu Hospital against protection rackets

Eastern Cape Health MEC asks community to guard new R680-million Sipetu Hospital against protection rackets
The newly constructed state of the art R680-million Sipetu Hospital in Ntabankulu, Eastern Cape on 28 July. 2023. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

The Eastern Cape Health MEC, Nomakhosazana Meth last weekend implored the Ntabankulu community to protect Sipetu Hospital, explaining that ‘protection money’ rackets have hit many health facilities in the province adding that it made it difficult for them to attract skilled professionals to the area.

Eastern Cape Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth has implored the Ntabankulu community to look after a new R680-million hospital that was opened at the weekend.

Meth was speaking at the opening of the new Sipetu Hospital in Ntabankulu.

She said hospitals and health facilities are now also being hit by protection rackets. 

Where hospitals are not paying, she added, employees and patients are robbed at gunpoint of money and their valuables.

“We first saw this with businesses where projects were stopped,” she said. 

“We are asking people of this area to protect this facility, protect our employees and patients so that people who are skilled, the professionals don’t run away seeing that their lives are in danger. We have not heard of that this side but we are saying it must not happen,” Meth said.

Minister of health Dr Joe Phaahla, Eastern Cape premier Oscar Lubabalo Mabuyana and MEC Nomakhosazana

Minister of health Dr Joe Phaahla, Eastern Cape premier Oscar Lubabalo Mabuyana and MEC Nomakhosazana Meth speaking with Nomadolo Ntanjana (55) who announced her retirement at Sipetu hospital on 28 July, 2023. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

She said the Department has also embarked on a project to employ artisans at its hospitals and clinics for maintenance which would mean that they didn’t need to put out tenders for small-scale maintenance.

Patients who are receiving medical treatment from Sipetu Hospital in Ntabankulu expressed their gratitude after the official opening of the newly constructed state-of-the-art R680 million Sipetu Hospital. Apart from the new building clinical services have also been upgraded. 

The hospital sees around 6,000 patients a month.

High hopes for improved service

The new R680-million Sipethu Hospital was opened on 28 July 2023 by the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, the Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane, and the MEC of Health Nomakhosazana Meth.

The hospital has 160 beds.

Some patients believe that the new facility will change their lives after many years of being referred to other hospitals as the old facility did not have enough resources and medicines or provide some services.

Sipetu Hospital ward

Medical ward at Sipetu Hospital, Ntabankulu, Eastern Cape on 28 July, 2023. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

One of the patients, Mbandezwa Hlabiyakhe (66) said the hospital used to be terrible.

“You knew you were not going to get proper help. We were being referred to other hospitals. I suffer from asthma. I am coughing all the time and struggle to breathe but I am hoping that they are going to be able to assist me in this new hospital,” Hlabiyakhe said.

He said after being turned away from the hospital a few times he had to pay R500 to see a private doctor.

Another patient, Keyton Macingwana (65) said the old hospital had a shortage of medication and this meant they had to look for help at state hospitals in Mthatha and Mount Frere. 

Sipetu Hospital old building

Sipetu Hospital old building. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

“But now we hope that things will change,” he added. “This is a beautiful hospital, the structure is out of this world, the government needs to add more doctors and nurses in this new hospital so that we do not have to be referred to other hospitals,” Macingwana added.

Noxolisa Vika

Elderly patient Noxolisa Vika after recieving medical treatment from the newly built Sipetu Hospital, Ntabankulu, Eastern Cape on 28 July, 2023. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

Noxolisa Vika said she visited the hospital for the first time on Saturday.

“I have received everything,  I am happy and the doctors treated me very well,” she added.

Sipetu Hospital doctor Nomadolo Ntanjana

Sipetu Hospital doctor Nomadolo Ntanjana who announced her retirement during the opening of the hospital in Ntabankulu, on 28 July, 2023. (Photo: Hoeya Jubase)

Dr Nomadolo Ntanjana (55), who served at the old hospital for the past 15 years said she will not continue her service at the new hospital. 

“It was a very exciting journey for me working for the community of Ntabankulu but I already decided that today it’s my last day. I am leaving the hospital with peace and I am happy that I am leaving now that the community has this beautiful building. For me, it’s like a dream. This is a beautiful new hospital before we were working in an old structure building, it was very bad, we couldn’t accommodate all the patients,” she said.

Meth said she was happy now that the new facility is opening.

“It’s a R680-million facility with a lot of improved services that have not been available before,” Meth said.

These include improved maternity services and kangaroo care for newborns and premature babies that were not available before. Meth said they are also looking at adding rehabilitation services and 72-hour mental health services for observation. 

Air ambulance at Sipetu Hospital

Air ambulance at Sipetu Hospital, Ntabankulu , Eastern Cape on 28 July, 2023. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

She added that the hospital has been equipped with state-of-the-art technology.

“We are saying the people of this area must just look after their facility and protect their facility, protect their staff, and ensure that we retain all the skills that we need. We are moving with speed to stabilise human resource capacity as we shall be employing a permanent CEO and clinical manager,” Meth added.

Mabuyane said he did not want to hear any stories of a shortage of doctors at Sipetu Hospital.

“I do not want to hear that patients are receiving bad treatment or are sleeping in chairs,” he said. 

The facility also has a 20-bed infectious disease ward, functionally flexible operating theatres that accommodate a variety of operating procedures, a high-tech radiology department, staff accommodation as well as a new helicopter landing pad for emergency referrals. DM

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