CaSIPO News: Limpopo Health Summit

On the 12th and 13th of March, delegates, partners, funders and traditional healers all gathered at the Bolivia Lodge for the Department of Health, Provincial Health Summit in Limpopo, Polokwane.

It was a very well organised and supported event attended by between 450-500 people from all walks of life. Mr Chupu Stanley Mathabatha (The Premier of Limpopo) as well as Dr. Yogan Pillay (Deputy Director General, Strategic Programmes, National Department of Health) were among the dignitaries who attended.

This was the first time such an event was held in the province with the aim to enhance stakeholder engagement so that everyone can come on board and work together to influence health in the province in a positive way.The summit started off with an introduction by the MEC, MI Kgetjepe, stating the Limpopo Department of Health’s mission, “To provide and promote comprehensive, accessible and affordable quality healthcare services and to improve the life expectancy of the people.”

He mentioned the Department’s strategic goals are to provide effective corporate governance;  provide appropriate human resources management and development; promote a sound financial management practice; implement comprehensive care and accelerate the management of HIV/AIDS, TB, STIs, and other communicable and non-communicable diseases; strengthen district, health and hospital services; improve the quality of health care; improve emergency medical services; develop tertiary services; and improve infrastructure development and maintenance.

He then explained the purpose of the summit with a few short pointers namely, to make more efficient health services available and accessible to the public of Limpopo; direct the focus to fight TB and HIV much more effectively; to recognise the need for a healthy healthcare system that is run correctly and efficiently. In conclusion, to produce workable ideas or more importantly to look at the old ideas and not to focus only on new ones, because there was no need, since there are enough viable old ideas – it’s just a matter of making them actually work!

Dr Yogan Pillay then spoke mainly about the health sector’s challenges in the province and the nation as a whole. He stated that to reach the goals, as a government, they need to do things differently to current practice. He expressed a sense of urgency, that South Africa does not have 100 years in which to reach the health outcomes of developed countries. There were 6 main pointers he drew out for change and improvement in order to see a steady change in the health sector. Those 6 pointers were; technological advances, business processes, behavioural change, speed, affordability and coverage.

The program then continued with a number of other well recognised speakers addressing the crowd. After that the attendees broke into discussion groups to discuss and brain storm ideas that could be realistically used in the system.After the summit I had an opportunity to interview Gandi Moetlo, Provincial Manager for CaSIPO (Care and Support to Improve Patient Outcomes) in the Limpopo province. Gandi stated that the major challenges Limpopo is facing, from a CaSIPO project point of view, are the serious issues of a high mortality rate and HIV/AIDS.

Gandi expressed his concern that people are being put on ARTS and ARVS, but they are not being retained on treatment, which to him and many others is a major concern and problem in the province. He reiterated Dr Pillay’s concern he expressed, that this isn’t just a problem facing Limpopo but indeed a national one. Gandi also said that they are attending the summit to support government and the department in terms of retaining those who are put through the system.  This is a key objective of the CaSIPO project.

Other main objectives for attending, Gandi shared are to hear which challenges the MEC and HOD are investigating what it is, as partners, we can do together to improve the quality of care for patients and their families.

Gandi concluded very positively that the MEC has approved the participation of CaSIPO and that he, the MEC, personally spoke to Gandi and further invited CaSIPO and all other parties involved to meet with him and to present all the findings and strategies to him.