The national Department of Health came under fire at public hearings into the state of shelters in the country in Braamfontein, Johannesburg on Friday.
The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), which is chairing the hearings, accused the department of failing to allocate adequate funding, neglect and failing to provide relevant services to shelters for victims of gender-based violence (GBV).
The department was also accused of being dictated to by certain NGOs and funders to suit their own agenda.
Further, the department was accused of failing to provide ambulances on time to GBV victims and a lack of knowledge by front desk officials when dealing with victims. The commission said that sometimes survivors of GBV were forced to walk to a clinic to seek medical help.
Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng who is commissioner at the CGE said she had received a call on Thursday, about a woman who was almost attacked by a mob in KwaZulu-Natal after a foetus was found in the area.
Mofokeng said the woman was denied medical services after she sought to have an abortion at a local clinic.
“She was denied services at 8 weeks [and] was forced to carry a baby for a full-term and [her] community wanted to kill her because of concealment of death,” said Mofokeng.
She said many people have realised that GBV is the new economy and funders are dictating to the department of health.
Mofokeng accused the department of handpicking NGOs it wanted to work with.
“Bodies of women are not for sale. Women are killed daily in South Africa. Why are black women’s bodies up for sale? There is no national agenda. You are chasing numbers that you are even setting for yourself.
“This is the real life story. It is individuals who have to absorb and assist when the system fails. Individual women are tired of waiting for the system to do things for them, they are doing things for themselves,” said Mofokeng.
Acting director-general from the department, Anban Pillay denied the claims.
“We have a right to decide whether an NGO or funder wants to dictate to us. We are not forced to participate with an NGO. We didn’t come prepared to deal with this today.
“We are happy to come back with these things to discuss. The allegations are not true,” he said.
The department complained about lack of staff to deal with victims of GBV as well as a lack of funding.
Pillay said the department did not have a dedicated budget to place its employees at shelters and that needs to be corrected.
The department suggested that maybe, in future there should be link between local clinics and shelters – where a nurse and doctor would visit the shelter once a week.
Pillay said the department is currently in the NHI process and will identify areas where healthcare needs to improve.
“We are trying to raise the standard using the legislative approach. We will see how best we can identify individuals to improve. We [should] come out with treatment guidelines, norms and standards.
“We need to agree with provinces that will all apply it. There must be budget guideline. We need to go back and fix many of the gaps.
“We need to sit down with provinces and the Department of Social Development and address the problem identified collectively,” said Pillay.
He said they have recognised the problem of shelters and referrals from shelters to clinics.
“It depends on resources available to all province and their demographic of the area. There is a need to ensure people referred to clinics don’t have to walk on foot to healthcare centres,” said Pillay.