Organised by TAC, the assembly brought together Ermelo community members, activists and provincial department of health representatives. Among the concerns voiced by activists was the continued staff shortages faced by some facilities.
Sfiso Nkala is a community organiser for the public interest law organisation Section27. According to Nkala, health service delivery in the area is being compromised by poor facility management and unfilled critical posts.
Continued complaints of long waiting times for emergency medical services were also voiced.
Gugu Tshabalala alleged that she paid R25 to hire transport to take her to hospital when an ambulance did not arrive.
Belinda Setshogelo added that in some parts of rural Mpumalanga, ambulance drivers complain about the condition of gravel roads and insist gravely ill patients walk to the nearest paved, main road to receive help.
In 2014, Health-e News reported how Gert Sibande’s 149 000-person Msukaligwa Municipality had just three ambulances while Albert Luthuli Local Municipality around Carolina has one hospital-based ambulance. Patients like Nurse Hlophe blamed the shortage of ambulance for a more than six-hour wait when she went into labour. Hlophe’s mother eventually delivered the child.
As of 2015, Mpumalanga was about 140 ambulances short of meeting the national norm of one ambulance per every 10,000 people.
Mpumalanga Department of Health Stakeholder Engagement Deputy Director Thembi Matsinhe said she and others would deliver community concerns to Health MEC Gillion Mashego.
“As the provincial department of health, we acknowledge and welcome the initiative by TAC in organising this People’s Health Assembly, which is the first for Mpumalanga province,” Matsinhe told OurHealth. “This platform affords us as…the opportunity to engage and listen to ordinary people on the ground who are using our facilities on daily basis.”
“We have noted all your concerns and we are taking them to management and the MEC,” she added. “We are here because he (Mashego) mandated us to attend and give him feedback.”