Hon Deputy Chairperson, hon Minister, hon Deputy Minister, my colleagues from different provinces, and hon members of this august House, it gives me great pleasure to be one of the people who will contribute to and support the health priorities of 2011-12, and also Budget Vote 16 in the NCOP.
We are meeting here today and we all have to agree with what the Minister has said, that there is an urgent need to drastically deal with the quadruple burden of disease. This is what we cannot avoid.
We in Limpopo can proudly say, in adhering to what the Minister has said, that we have already counselled 1,2 million people, of whom 900 came to be tested. These numbers will actually be increased by the fact that we have taken the campaign to the villages around the province. As has been stated by the Minister, on 12 June 2011 we were in the village of Mafefe, together with traditional leaders from all over the country. The successes of this campaign have inspired us as the Limpopo province so much that we will be continuing with the programme of HIV Counselling and Testing, HCT, in our rural villages throughout the districts of the province.
We will also make sure that we intensify our campaign in institutions of higher learning, thus ensuring that we reach all sectors of our society.
We are doing this, very well aware of the fact that we are all responsible, as we all have to know our status. In Limpopo province, in working in partnership with many of the organisations, we are strengthening the medical male circumcision campaign, distributing both female and male condoms, and making sure of prevention of mother-to-child transmission. These are some of the programmes that we are intensifying and popularising. Of course, we are conscious of the fact that, as we are doing this, knowing one's status is important.
We are also conscious of the fact that yet another problem burdens people who are infected, and that is TB, which is wreaking havoc, particularly in some of the rural villages. As a province, by way of contributing to job creation and making sure that we deal with the challenges of TB, we have bought 20 tracer cars and employed over 40 people who can trace our TB- infected people and make sure that they take their treatment regularly, as we work with the DOTS supporters. Our outreach programmes in the communities by way of making household visits, and making sure that we screen TB patients, are also yielding fruit in this regard.
In our endeavour to realise "a long and healthy life for all South Africans", we are also insisting on physical training for all our people, knowing well that exercise is one of the potential ways to prevent noncommunicable diseases. We are working very closely with a number of stakeholders and in this regard I need to say that, together with the departments of sport, arts and culture and of social development, we have taken this programme very seriously to our communities out there. As a result, we have started to identify groups, particularly amongst the elderly, that we are working with.
At the moment the internationally acclaimed soccer team, Vhakhegula Vhakhegula, who are the world champions, are our healthy lifestyle ambassadors. These elderly women are not only fit and healthy as grannies, but able to dribble and play soccer. They are also elderly women who champion indigenous food and styles of working. We are working very closely with them so that our indigenous knowledge system can improve.
This deliberate move that we are making indicates that we must move away from an expensive, unsustainable and curative health system towards a more desirable preventive health care system, as a way of achieving a long and healthy life as South Africans. I dare to say that preventive medicine is the only way to go, because it is affordable, particularly to us in the rural provinces. It is also how we can make sure that we contribute to the Millennium Development Goals.
We are aware that this system requires, amongst other things, strengthening primary health care; reducing the costs of medicine; making sure that we control infections; and increasing access to health care and many other things. As a province we went out on a campaign to make sure that we recruit as many professional staff as possible. Our infrastructure is being revamped, and we are partnering with many different organisations in a quest to make sure that we live up to some of these ideals. In this regard, we have partnered with several institutions, such as clinics, to assist and make sure that we reach out to rural communities. There are several specialists who are working with us in the rural community of Phalaborwa, and we believe that with their doing so we will definitely be able to deal with some of the challenges that we are faced with in the public sector, which include a lack of professionals.
Let me indicate that our hospital revitalisation is bearing fruit, with several of our villagers not travelling many kilometres to their nearest health centres. We also welcome the new medical school, as announced by the President, to be built in Limpopo. This is a clear indication that we can better the lives of our people. We can also safely state that, as much as we have state-of-the-art hospital facilities, there are still challenges, like a lack of medicine, basic equipment and professionals. These are some of the things that we are still faced with.
It is in this context that we as a province have decided to standardise the procurement of medical equipment, including developing a comprehensive procurement plan, so that we are able to maximise the spreading of equipment to the different hospitals. The standardisation programme will assist a great deal in making sure that our facilities are properly equipped, and that we do not send people to faraway places, which exacerbates the condition of their ailments. The same strategy will be employed in making sure that there is a stocking-up of medicines and other related things where there are shortages, so that what we are experiencing is dealt with.
A considerable number of patients found in our health facilities are brought in by our emergency medical services, which sometimes transport them through planned patient services. We as a department have made sure that we have brought all these programmes under one roof so that we can optimise the access of our people to transport. We are proud to say that our emergency services have been set up in the rural heartland so that in time of need our people can have easy help and access to them.
Similarly, we are making sure that communication in this regard becomes effective, as we are trying to network with the traffic officers and the police so that as emergencies happen we are all able to help one other. Of course, the challenges of infrastructure networks, such as digital and data networks in the rural areas, still exist. The challenge of roadwork networks is also one of the things that hamper our response time.
We have also embarked on making sure that we convert several of our ambulances into obstetric ambulances. We know that maternal and child mortality is one of the challenges, particularly in rural areas. We believe that by working together and making sure that we have the necessary equipment and human resources we will be able to deal with this. I support the budget. Thank you. [Applause.]
Dr S M DHLOMO (KwaZulu-Natal): Deputy Chairperson and members of the Council, hon Minister Motsoaledi, and two other Ministers, Minister Gigaba and Minister Mahlangu-Nkabinde, Deputy Minister, the chair of the select committee, senior officials from the national Department of Health, my colleagues, MECs, and ladies and gentlemen, I support the budget of the hon Minister, which will accelerate the programmes that have been outlined by the Minister, and will also ensure "a long and healthy life for all South Africans".
Our health workers are under attack. In the month of May we buried a member of our emergency medical rescue services, who died tragically in Estcourt after he was attacked when responding to a distress call. In the incident a young man had stabbed his parents, and the family called an ambulance. On its arrival and while our member of staff was trying to help the stabbed mother, the assailant stabbed our member to death, as well as a policeman who was also at the scene.
We have also heard the Minister and other colleagues extending condolences to the Mkhize family. This doctor was laid to rest in Durban on 11 June 2011. On the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, from 7 to 10 June, last week, the 5th South African Aids Conference was held in Durban. Opening the conference, Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo made a profound statement. He said that we are not achieving the desired results not so much because of the stubbornness of the virus but because of ourselves.
Deputy Chairperson, in KwaZulu-Natal 20 000 children are infected with HIV by their mothers each year. However, the conference was briefed on the great strides that our province has made in reducing the rate of transmission from mother to child. In 2008 it stood at 21% and now, by improving the quality of service at our facilities, and by offering medication preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV to women at the correct time, it has been brought down to below 3%. A number of interventions have been put in place to ensure that we eventually eradicate the transmission of HIV from mother to child. It is actually possible to have HIV-positive mothers giving birth to HIV-negative babies.
We have achieved 100% Azidothymidine, AZT, initiation for all pregnant women who have attended our antenatal clinics. However, early booking is still a challenge in many areas of the province, and I have called on all sectors to work with us in this regard.
What has strengthened this programme, however, are the following, amongst other things. There are now 470 institutions, which include 63 hospitals and 407 primary care clinics, where we provide antiretroviral drugs, ARVs, in various areas in the province, and we have 2 331 nurses who have been trained in the initiation of ARVs. Of the 1,3 million South Africans on ARVs, 459 670 are in KwaZulu-Natal, which is more than a third of the patients in the country on treatment.
A challenge that we still have, and that also contributes to maternal morbidity and mortality, is starting antenatal care very late. Our President made a call for initiation of ARVs in HIV-positive pregnant mothers at 14 weeks, and this can only help to improve this picture. Another challenge is teenage pregnancy, where some of our teenagers report it very late because of fear. In fact, World Health Organisation, WHO, guidelines mention that any pregnancy of a woman of 18 years and younger is a risky pregnancy.
The quadruple burden of disease that the Minister has alluded to is worse in KwaZulu-Natal than in any other part of the country. Therefore, we have to double our efforts in dealing with this matter.
In KwaZulu-Natal, since the launch of the campaign last year, we have tested 2,3 million people out of the target of 3 million that we set ourselves to achieve by the end of June this year. It is worth noting that we have reached an average of 78%, but there are districts that are still lagging behind. These districts are eThekwini, iLembe and uMgungundlovu. The House will also note that these are the three districts where the prevalence is above 40%. In moving forward we will intensify our campaign towards the 3 million milestone at the end of June, and our efforts will be in these three districts.
With regard to intensifying the fight against tuberculosis, TB, on 24 March 2011 our hon Minister, Dr Motsoaledi, unveiled a GeneXpert Infinity 48 machine at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in uMlazi, Durban. That machine has to date processed 12 331 specimens with 22% positivity, and 6,5% is multi drug-resistant TB, MDR-TB. What it means, hon members, is that within a period of two and half months we now have 12 000 South Africans who know that they do or do not have TB and, amongst those, they now know that they have TB that is normal or not normal. All this information is made available on the same day as patients present their sputum. It means treatment can be started immediately. We thank the Minister for this.
In April this year the Deputy President officially opened the MDR-TB Unit at Catherine Booth Hospital in the uThungulu district near Stanger. It is a highly specialised 40-bed unit. This brings to four the number of MDR units in our province, as the King George V Hospital designated certain beds as MDR beds when we started having this problem. There is also the Church of Scotland Hospital in Msinga, where the extensively drug-resistant TB, XDR- TB, started, and the other one is Manguzi Provincial Hospital next to the Swaziland border.
On medical male circumcision, I had the great pleasure of attending the Scientific Advisory Board meeting of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa, Caprisa, last week, where researchers were making presentations to the board. I was elated when there was unanimity on the number of prevention methods that have been implemented by government. Scientists singled out the roll-out of medical male circumcision in our province as having opened the way for the uptake of this prevention method throughout the country. We were informed that 140 120 men and boys have been circumcised throughout the country and 25% of those, which translates to 35 000, were from KwaZulu-Natal. As we approach the June holidays, we will be having camps throughout the province to continue with the programme of circumcision.
On the Nursing Summit, we had presummit consulting in the province, which took place on 28 February, and out of the 2 000 participants in the Nursing Summit 217 came from KwaZulu-Natal. This groundbreaking summit was also graced by the attendance of our President, the hon J G Zuma, as well as that of the Minister of Health. The summit ended with the adoption of a Nursing Compact, which is a declaration of better nursing service delivery to all the people of South Africa.
On the progress of recruitment of nurses and the filling of posts, hon members, allow me to agree with the Minister of Health when he said that throughout the world nurses were the backbone of health care service delivery, and without them we could not begin to talk of any health care system. We would like to report to this House that as part of our bulk recruitment strategy we appointed 759 nursing assistants and 626 staff nurses in all districts in January and February this year. A total of 183 professional nurses were also appointed during the same period. It is with great pleasure that I also report that since April this year we have actually instituted what we call maintenance teams in all districts, and we have also asked hospitals to prioritise the filling of vacant artisan posts, as well as related support personnel.
Community health care workers are the backbone of the mobilisation committee, and we have appointed 2 567 community caregivers in the department, including community caregiver supervisors.
We are also happy to note that this year marks 15 years since the start of Cuba-South Africa co-operation with regard to the training of medical students. To date, hon members, 58 students who come from our province have graduated as doctors, and we recently sent 14 more to Cuba for training. These are students from poor backgrounds, who would not otherwise have been able to achieve their dream of being medical officers.
In ensuring that students from poor communities and backgrounds have an opportunity to study towards a health-related qualification, we have also granted 283 nursing student bursaries for two-year and three-year course programmes.
We have, among other things, also made the following appointments. Deputy Chairperson, 24 pharmacy assistants were appointed; 256 new learners commenced their nursing training for the four-year course; 342 professional nurses who are doing community service started in January this year; 26 students are registered at Pretoria University and Wits University, training as clinical associates; a group of 51 occupational therapy technicians will be trained at the University of KwaZulu-Natal; the department has 313 vacant funded basic ambulance assistant posts, which should be filled in August this year; and, furthermore, the department has ring-fenced funding of R82 million for the further training of 583 people for basic life support posts. In summary, hon members, for the period from January to date, the department has appointed a total of 5 122 personnel in various categories.
According to an update on corruption and misconduct, in the month of May alone the KwaZulu-Natal department of health suspended 20 officials to allow our officials to finalise investigations and for internal disciplinary processes to continue without hindrance. We have never suspended any official for longer than three months without starting disciplinary hearings. Currently, 47 officials have either resigned or been dismissed, or they are appearing in various courts for acts of misconduct relating to corrupt activities in the department. What is striking is that these officials are alleged to have siphoned off millions of rands of public funds from the department that could have been best utilised to train nurses and do many other things.
On the programme announced by the Minister, which we have called Make Me Look Like a Hospital, in KwaZulu-Natal, the Minister visited our province in 2009. Thank you very much. [Time expired.] [Applause.]