Health Minister Barbara Hogan came away from her visit to cholera treatment sites in Limpopo with a greater sense of the enormity of the problem, her spokesman Fidel Hadebe said yesterday.
Hogan, and an entourage that included representatives of the World Health Organisation and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, spent the day listening to the interventions being carried out by the national response team put in place to assist mainly Zimbabweans seeking treatment.
The biggest challenge was the strain that the additional number of people was placing on health services and the limited resources available, Hadebe said.
"There is indeed a public health system challenge that needs to be addressed," he said.
As soon as Hogan returned to Pretoria she planned a meeting with Cabinet ministers from the Home Affairs, Security and Defence departments to find ways of expanding on the measures already in place.
One of the options to consider would be enlisting the services of the SA National Defence Force's military health services, Hadebe said.
Rehydration centres have been established, water officials are continuing tests on water supplies after finding fecal matter in some parts of the Limpopo river which divides the two countries, and clean water and soap are being distributed. The Limpopo health department had to divert resources remaining until the next financial year to cholera treatment, as health services on their side of the border were struggling to cope, said spokesman Phuti Seloba.
The number of people being treated for cholera in Limpopo increased to 645 from 633 by yesterday, with 62 being admitted to hospital, up from the 57 admissions on Monday.
At least eight people have died from the disease.
Many health staffers were working 24-hour shifts back to back, while others were being deployed from health care facilities in other towns, and overtime had to be paid and medicines funded, said Seloba.
"But our view is that you can't compromise the life of a human being. You can't attach monetary value to lives."
He said everybody was "pulling together" in the Limpopo heat to help.
"Red Cross, Gift of the Givers, and Save the Children are all doing a tremendous job," he said. - Sapa