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Improved maternal health in Limpopo a sign of success, but budget cuts loom

Written by Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

Limpopo public health facilities have seen an improvement in maternal health, but budget cuts may weaken the health system’s gains.

Limpopo public health facilities have recorded a decline in maternal mortality 2020, according to the province’s Health MEC.

Dr Phophi Ramathauba described the decline as an achievement which the people of Limpopo should be proud of.

“As a province we continue to pride ourselves by registering on an annual base a decline in maternal mortality. We have this time around managed to reduce maternal mortality rate from 106 per 100 000 deliveries to 97.8 per 100,000 deliveries,” said Ramathuba.

During the 2014/15 financial year, Limpopo maternal mortality was 182 per 100,000 deliveries, Ramathuba said while delivering her 2021/2022 budget speech last week. Childhood deaths under the age of five had also reduced from 3.3% to 2.7%.

Maternal mortality is often used as a common indicator of how well a given health system is performing as a whole. It tracks a mother’s health during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period, according to the World Health Organisation.

The most common direct causes of maternal injury and death are excessive blood loss, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labour. Indirect causes of death or poor maternal health include anaemia, malaria and heart disease.

Despite the decline, Ramathuba said that her department will continue to monitor the upgrading of regional and tertiary hospitals to enhance the intensive care unit (ICU) capacity at the hospitals and improve adherence to standardised treatment guidelines.

“We continue to work with communities to encourage early health seeking behaviour and to recognise the danger signs,” said the MEC.

Budget for health has decreased

Still, it was not all good news. Ramathuba said that the 2021/22 overall budget for the health has decreased by 0.8% from the 2020/21 main appropriation and by 3% from the adjusted appropriation.

“Main appropriation refers to the original budget at the beginning of the financial year whereas adjusted budget refers to the budget refers to the budget that has either been increased or decreased that normally happens after a six-month period of time in the financial year. It normally occurs between October and November each year,” explained  departmental spokesperson Neil Shikwambana.

The equitable share decreased by 3.8% from the 2020/21 adjusted allocation. And at the same time conditional grants grew by 2% from the 2020/21 adjusted allocation.

Equitable share “refers to the budget that is appropriated by National Treasury to all government entities and does not have the conditions on how you could spend it,” according to Shikwambana.

“It is critical to note that the equitable share allocation includes an amount of R1.9 billion earmarked for the fight against COVID-19 pandemic. In monetary terms, the total budget indicates a decline from R22.6 billion in 2020/21 to R22.0 billion in 2021/22 from adjusted allocation. The total allocation declines by an average of 0.4% over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework. This demonstrates that the department is currently experiencing financial strain and will do so for the foreseeable future,” said Ramathuba.

An amount of R885,2 million has been set aside for the running of emergency medical services in the province, including the purchase of ambulances. An amount of 1.4 billion has been allocated to health infrastructure programme including COVID19. A further R198,7 million has been allocated for the training of health professionals and R1.5 billion has been allocated for medicine, the MEC outlined. —Health-e News

About the author

Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

Ndivhuwo Mukwevho is citizen journalist who is based in the Vhembe District of Limpopo province. He joined OurHealth in 2015 and his interests lie in investigative journalism and reporting the untold stories of disadvantaged rural communities. Ndivhuwo holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Studies from the University of Venda and he is currently a registered student with UNISA.