“Disband management of Vhembe Health”

Date: 01 March 2019   Read: 32105

By Dr Muthuhadini Madzivhandila

In responding to the story published in Limpopo Mirror of 15 February, I thought I should share my thinking in line with what transpired at the said hospital (Tshilidzini).

The process recommended and implemented by the MEC for Health was actually “Recycling of the Warm Bodies”. Again, one would ask if the MEC was supposed to have taken that initiative or that exercise was purely administrative and rest with management, but this debate is for another day.

I learned with excitement that the Honourable MEC of Health in Limpopo Province, Dr Phophi Ramathuba, has taken an informed decision to disband the management of Tshilidzini Hospital with immediate effect from Tuesday, 11 February 2019. As one would remember where this hospital was during the era of Matron Cilliers, Botha, Du Plooy, Mrs Ravele, and Matron Mudau etc when some of us joined the hospital in 1981 as auxiliary nurses in training. Apart from the fact that it was led by missionaries whose agenda was anti-revolution and anti-transformation, the standard of nursing was at its best.

The type of uniform was of such a standard that one would be attracted to join nursing without even considering the remuneration package thereof because this profession was regarded as a calling. That uniform as well contributed in providing therapy to patients solely because of its colour and cleanliness.

It is disheartening to compare the two scenarios, because one would have thought after 1994 South Africans would fight hard to protect the image of this profession to improve its standard more to render required services by our communities. Instead, when one enters the hospital, one gets confronted by nurses wearing uniform which could depress a visitor visiting his/her patient and what more could this uniform be doing to patients daily.

It was a taboo to see cockroaches crawling in hospital wards and everything would stop if a fly enters a ward so that nurses make sure that the fly gets killed before any procedure  continues.  As it is today, some patients must bring their own clothes, food etc as I read the story of my old friend Mr Thivhilaeli Muthobvu, who was once admitted at Tshilidzini hospital.

If I was the MEC of Health, I would have disbanded the District Management of Vhembe Department of Health with immediate effect and perhaps second all of them for managerial courses before even considering them for placement in any health institution. These are the people who were tasked to manage all the hospitals and clinics in the district but chose to do the contrary.

Instead of doing that, the district managers allowed the health services to collapse on their watch. It was so crucial for the MEC to intervene when the health system was collapsing, but the how soon also is equally important.

Tshilidzini Hospital collapsed some years ago. There is enough evidence to show that infrastructure maintenance and rehabilitation was never done for some years. There is evidence enough to also show that very little is happening on matters relating to training and capacity building of the workforce, including artisans who during our times were the pillars of infrastructure maintenance and repairs.

One wonders how swapping officials from the district office to the hospital will change the situation. These senior managers who are being transferred to Tshilidzini Hospital are the ones who dismally failed to supervise the management of the same hospital. They are the ones who failed to intervene when labour took over the management of the hospital, leading to the collapse of this beautiful place. They are the ones who facilitated the taking over of hospital management by unions and failed to define proper boundaries between labour and management.

One would have thought of different turnaround strategy as opposed to recycling of same warm bodies. Of course, in disbanding the district office and Tshilidzini Hospital, care should be taken to retain those who will provide institutional memories but swapping managers could leave the situation unchanged.

I have learned with shock that there could be an attempt to move and place some managers who failed Tshilidzini Hospital to Hayani Hospital.  Are there reports that systems at Hayani Hospital have failed? If they have indeed failed why send failures to worsen the situation? If they are successful why deploy the same failures who failed Tshilidzini Hospital to collapse them? These and other questions need serious answers.

Those who were given opportunities to manage our health institution and failed them should be referred for training instead of just recycling them. They have proved beyond reasonable doubt that in them, there is no capacity to manage. A culture of cadre deployment has also contributed in collapsing the health systems.

“Relevant qualifications should be a determinant for appointments in any position and nothing more or less.” One can only image that as a culture in our country, those that have failed will not even be subjected to corrective measures, but instead they will be moved with the same position and the same salary some institutions. Our health systems require upgrading and surely government can and should play its part in providing resources while those who chose to join these institutions should as well jerk-up their professional commitment. 

The author of this article is Dr Muthuhadini Madzivhandila, a seasoned administrator and researcher. He worked as a staff nurse for almost 11 years at Tshilidzini Hospital, Thohoyandou Correctional Services and Donald Frazer Hospital.



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