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SAHRC expresses grave concern at the state of public health facilities in Mpumalanga

20 December 2013

ATTENTION: Editors and Reporters


The South African Human Rights Commission has completed its investigation into the state of hospitals in the Mpumalanga Province. The SAHRC found that several hospitals in Mpumalanga are in a critical state resulting in the violation of the public’s right to access health care services.

The latest findings in Mpumalanga are reflective of systemic challenges across the public health care sector that require urgent intervention. In 2008 the Commission released a report of an intensive nation-wide investigation into health care services in SA.  We believe that if Government had responded to that report in a proactive fashion we would not be making this finding today.  We therefore call upon both the Mpumalanga health authorities as well as the national Minister of Health to urgently deal with the Commission’s recommendations.

Details of the Finding

The Commission completed this finding after conducting a thorough investigation over the course of 2013 in Mpumalanga following a complaint about the state of public health care in the province.  The complainant alleged that the Provincial Department for Health in the province had failed in its duty to provide adequate health care services to communities in the province.

It was specifically alleged that a number of provincial hospitals suffered from critical shortages of doctors, nurses and other professional personnel. It was further alleged that a number of hospitals did not have adequate infrastructure, doctors and facilities to serve communities in the province.

The SAHRC’s investigation covered a sample of the three main hospitals in Mpumalanga, namely Rob Ferreira Hospital, Matibidi Hospital and Bernice Samuel Hospital.

The main finding of this investigation was that the situation in the three hospitals has impacted negatively on the government’s ability to discharge its constitutional obligation to provide health services to members of the public.

The SAHRC locates these findings in the context of its previous 2007/2008 investigation, findings and recommendations.

In that Report, the SAHRC arrived found a wide range of systemic, nation-wide shortcomings in the public health care system and recommended to the national Department of Health, amongst others, that government must:

a)      Conduct skills audits of senior management and implement appropriate interventions such as training and awareness campaigns to capacitate senior staff;

b)      Install appropriate infrastructure for the public health care system to function optimally; and

c)      Provide funding to public health facilities, particularly in rural areas of the country.

The findings of the present investigation, as well as statistical and anecdotal evidence from other provinces, indicate that the systemic challenges remain in the provision of public health care both nationally and within the provinces, including Mpumalanga Province.

Following this investigation, the SAHRC recommends that the Department of Health must formulate and submit no later than 31 March 2014 a well-cordinated programme. This must, within clearly stipulated timeframes, address the infrastructural, administrative and other challenges that undermine the right to health care in all Mpumalanga public hospitals,.


Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission

Isaac Mangena

Spokesperson, SAHRC


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