News / South Africa / Local News

Janine van Staden
4 minute read
26 Apr 2018
12:00 pm

Public outcry after Limpopo HIV and TB NGO denied funding

Janine van Staden

HIV and TB patients were up in arms and launched a protest after the Limpopo health department announced they would no longer fund the NGO.

File photo. For illustrative purposes.

The department gave the NGO three months to hand over the list of patients and transfer all patients to local clinics, provide treatment for the next two months and prepare admin for clinics who will be taking over.

HIV and TB patients that receive healthcare services from the Ndlovu Care Group want their voices to be heard, saying that they refuse to be transferred to government clinics that treat them arrogantly, have poor service and care for patients in dilapidated clinics, Middelburg Observer reports.

READ MORE: Nurse tells Life Esidimeni hearing they had no choice but to follow orders

The Limpopo department of health announced this during their budget speech for 2018/19 on Tuesday, 10 April, saying that they will prioritise equipment maintenance, medical supplies and increasing human resources at the department with the allocated budget for this financial year, which is R19.5 billion – an increase of 8.1% from 2017/18.

They also announced that it will no longer fund centres and nonprofit organisations providing services to HIV patients across the province, saying that the system is costing the department millions of rand a year.

More than 3 700 TB and HIV patients are currently receiving treatment at Ndlovu Care Group facilities, but the department wants to part ways with the NGO in order to cut costs, and will result in the closing of the HIV and TB programme.

The patients say that the public health care system is not fully equipped, understaffed and not capacitated to look after their health needs and warned that the decision to stop funding the NGO will result in deaths.

The Ndlovu Medical Centre has been in operation since 1994 and Dr Hugo Tempelman, the founder of Ndlovu Care Group, was the first in the province to set up a free anti-retroviral programme site for HIV/Aids patients in 2003 while the Department of Health was still in denial.

Ndlovu Care Group later partnered with the department to treat HIV and TB patients, as from 2008.

Tempelman said that he regrets the decision of the Limpopo department of health, and is very disappointed that they finalised the decision without engaging properly with the community, patients and local clinics concerned.

Ndlovu Care Group does not only provide the TB/HIV/Aids treatment programme, but also provides other related services such as a cervical cancer treatment programme, audiology and innovating HIV prevention research.

He said that closing the HIV and TB programme at Ndlovu Care Group will not only result in patients having to move to other under-capacitated, understaffed, overburdened clinics, but will result in defaulters and treatment interruptions through which the health of the patients will be affected.

He does not understand the position of the department of health at a time that service delivery and employment are such important issues on the political agenda.

Closing the ARV roll-out programme at Ndlovu Care Group will lead to approximately 35-42 job losses according to the HR manager, Mrs Poppy Mashamaite. Of these employees, 85% are local residents who will be unable to find new jobs in an area with over 55% of unemployment.

Tempelman said that he cares too much about the 3 700 HIV and TB patients of the Ndlovu Care Group to accept the department’s decision.

“If the Ndlovu HIV and TB programme closes, the local clinics will receive double the amount of patients they have now. The question is how will the local clinics handle double the patients if they can’t even handle the amount they have now? The clinics will sink and swamp and this will create chaos,” said Tempelman.

He further explained that the community, Ndlovu Care Group and the MEC of the department of health, Phophi Ramathuba, had a meeting and that Ndlovu is still fighting hard for the patient’s care at the Ndlovu Care Group, and continues to negotiate with the department about their decision.

“I won’t stop fighting for the patients. This is not about the Ndlovu Care Group, but about the 3 700 patients that now need to be transferred to clinics that will not be able to absorb enormous amounts of patients on top of the current workload they have.

“Ndlovu Care Group is also very concerned about the almost 42 employees that serve the community and whom the department is not willing to take over.

“Ndlovu Care Group has another meeting with the department on Friday and will continue to engage with the department on the matter,” said Tempelman.

Fears have been sparked that this could be another Life Esidimeni tragedy, in which ninety-four people died after the Gauteng Health Department moved patients from Life Esidimeni and other facilities. Police are investigating several cases of murder and negligence.

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