Despite being placed under National Administration in 2018, the North West Provincial Health Department is still experiencing challenges with providing adequate healthcare to its predominantly rural communities.

Nearly 80 new mothers at Itsoseng Community Healthcare Centre, Lichtenburg, were shocked when nursing staff told them that there was a shortage of immunisation vaccines and that their infants couldn’t receive the required treatment. 

According to Mayo Clinic, toddlers and infants who miss vaccines, or have delayed vaccine schedules are more vulnerable to diseases like measles, mumps, rubella and polio. Immunisation at an early age against these, and other diseases, protect the child against subsequent infection or disease. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in 2019 at least 19.4-million children under one years old did not receive basic vaccinations.

Poor postnatal care

An irritated mother who spoke to OurHealth anonymously explained that staff shortages coupled with no available vaccines has led to frustrating circumstances for new mothers. 

“I have been queuing here since early this morning, and there is only one nurse who attends to all of us. We are told that there are no vaccines and will have to come back at a later date. I’m totally disappointed in our health system, because we have to wait for a long time as there also seem to be staff shortages.”

She continued: “We are told that the only services we will receive are consultations with a nutritional expert, and a weight check for our babies. I’m extremely hungry as I didn’t expect to wait for this long at the health centre, and I didn’t bring enough food for my baby,” added the furious mother.

Due to overcrowding, some mothers were seated on the passage floor with their infants, while some toddlers caused commotion in the reception area. Other parents left the facility due to anger and frustration.

‘We are working on the issue’ 

Provincial spokesperson for the health department, Tebogo Lekgethwane, admitted that the province was facing a crisis.

“ MEC Madoda Sambatha announced that we will be embarking on a catch-up campaign with regard to vaccines that have to be administered. The department will announce when vaccines are available to all districts,” he says.

He further explained that they are attending to staff shortages. 

“Since being placed under administration, we have managed to advertise 3000 posts. Nearly 2000 posts have been filled and we urge the public to remain patient as we are working on the issue.”

Lekgethwane also noted that the department is aware of the general medicine shortage in the province, some of which is due to international suppliers.

“R90-million has been set aside in the provincial budget with regard to a shortage of other medicines. Another challenge also comes from international suppliers, who failed to deliver on time.” — Health-e News