‘I was fortunate to oversee the transformation of the SA Revenue Service from Parliament and it was a joke in those days. They didn’t even have ribbons to print the tax returns,’ said Hogan speaking frankly in her first media interview since being appointed 20 days ago.
‘We are taking advice from those who turned SARS around and to others. We should be able to effect a turnaround in five years.’
In the light of a vacancy rate of some 46 000 nurses and almost 10 000 doctors, Hogan said that ‘no one wants to work in an unhappy environment’.
‘It is extraordinary that people can continue to work in hospitals where there is so much dysfunction,’ said Hogan, a diminutive woman charged with one of South Africa’s toughest jobs.
She committed herself to engaging with the Democratic Nurses Organisation of SA (Denosa) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) to find solutions.
Hogan said that she and her advisors had already identified that some 20 health districts were ‘in a bad way’ and this was daunting.
‘But we are blessed with incredible skills and dedication in this country,’ said Hogan. ‘I have been overwhelmed by the goodwill, nationally and internationally. People have told me that they will do anything; work long hours and over weekends to make the change. I want to build on this impetus and the energy that has been unleashed.’
Hogan said she now started work at 3am every morning while her head was clear and people were not phoning her.
‘HIV/AIDS has to be an absolute priority for government,’ said Hogan. ‘HIV is highest among people aged 25 to 40 and this is our economically active population.’
Her immediate priority is to embark on a mass campaign to encourage pregnant women with HIV to take treatment to reduce the risk of them passing HIV to their babies.
‘We want to accelerate the prevention of mother-to-child transmission programme to get children born free of AIDS,’ said Hogan. ‘The uptake in some districts is low.’
Hogan is deeply concerned that South Africa’s maternal and child mortality rate has got worse since 1994.
‘Many of the deaths of the 140 babies in the Ukhahlamba district [in the Eastern Cape] were caused by the poor quality of the water in that district. It is critical that local government is also working properly so that our water and waste removal are performing optimally.’
Hogan said that both health and education had been identified as priorities by the ANC at its Polokwane conference as ‘neither have been great performers since 1994’.
‘With both there are concurrent powers [in the Constitution] and the provinces responsible for implementation,’ said Hogan.
‘I can’t, as national Minister, instruct an MEC in a province to do something. I don’t want to tinker with the Constitution. But there are a number of misfits. We need to find smarter ways to deal with the lack of an integrated health system.
‘The relationship between the Minister and the MECs is critical. We have to see ourselves working together as Team Health.’
Hogan paid tribute to all those who had given up ‘their time, livelihoods and families’ to take care of those infected and affected with HIV.
‘I salute the work they have done. They are the silent heroes of our country. Government is enormously grateful for the energy and love they are giving out. I hope to engage with them and help them with resources to do they work they are doing.’
Hogan also said that she was in no hurry to regulate the private health sector.
‘You can undermine an industry if your regulation is too stiff. I don’t want to rush into anything. We need good relations between the public and the private sector, but if you have a poor public health sector, it doesn’t make sense to undermine private health.’ ‘ Health-e news.