On the 4th of March 2013 members of the Treatment Action Campaign in Mpumalanga together with the community of Acornhoek picketed at the Tintswalo Hospital in Acornhoek at the Ehlanzeni Municipality. They picketed to voice their concerns about allegations of mismanagement against the hospital’s clinical manager, Dr. Thuketana.
The Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP) has been receiving extremely concerning reports from previous and current health care professionals regarding Dr. Thuketana’s conduct. RHAP, SECTION27 and the Rural Doctors Association (RuDASA) have since sent several letters to the Department of Health requesting an investigation into the allegations.
The hospital today no longer has a surgeon, an orthopaedic specialist, a paediatrician, an anaesthesia specialist, and an emergency specialist. Other doctors are threatening to resign as well if there is no improvement in their current working conditions.
The HIV unit at the hospital is also without a doctor. This is not because there is no HIV-trained doctor at Tintswalo Hospital. The HIV clinician heading up the unit has been moved to the Out Patients Department (OPD) on the 21st of February 2013 without any explanation. The OPD is already staffed by a number of other doctors.
Doctors report a toxic work environment where divide and rule tactics prevail; where those not in favour by the clinical manager are allegedly left unsupported and threatened with disciplinary action against them when they raise concerns, while others are not disciplined for failing to report to work or to answer calls during stand-by duty at night.
The situation at Tintswalo Hospital points to a broader problem in the health system regarding lack of accountability of clinical managers. Clinical manager’s report to the hospital CEO’s but often the hospital CEO’s do not have the skills and experience to stand up against misconduct by their clinical managers. The hospital CEO at Tintswalo is in an acting position.
The protestors handed a memorandum to the newly appointed MEC, Mrs. Candith Mashego-Dlamini who was at the hospital for a routine visit.
They requested the following:
· that an urgent investigation into the allegations against Dr Thuketana is conducted;
· that Dr. Thuketana is placed on precautionary suspension; this was felt to be critical and urgent to avoid any further resignations by the hospital’s medical staff;
· that Dr. Hichem Ben Azzouz is reinstated to his post as the Head of the HIV/AIDS Unit with immediate effect, from the 5th of March.
They also asked for;
· the re-establishment of the Voluntary Male Medical Circumcision (VMMC) service and
· the integration of TB and HIV services
The MEC accepted the memorandum and acknowledged that there are some problems with management at the facility. She promised a solution to the VMMC services in collaboration with local traditional leaders. She did not give a response regarding Dr. Thukethana, opting to wait until after the outcomes of his disciplinary hearing on another matter on the 6th of March 2013. The hearing is concerning previous allegations of corruption and fraud against him while he was still acting-CEO at the same facility.
TAC, community members and RHAP are anticipating the outcomes of the hearing and will continue to monitor the situation at the hospital and advocate for a speedy resolution to the problems at so that access to health care is not compromised any more than it already is.