Her feats reach beyond SA

UNDER Manto Tshabalala-Msimang's health leadership, a number of progressive laws were promulgated aimed at providing a policy framework for universal access to quality health care.

UNDER Manto Tshabalala-Msimang's health leadership, a number of progressive laws were promulgated aimed at providing a policy framework for universal access to quality health care.

This was also to end racial segregation in hospitals and to address the shortage of skilled health professionals in rural areas.

Her mission was to give the public healthcare sector a complete facelift. Through the Hospital Revitalisation Programme, 30 hospitals have been renovated and more than 1600 clinics built to improve access to healthcare since her time in 1999. Improvements in hospital management have also been facilitated.

Tshabalala-Msimang formed a joint initiative with Namibia to establish a cardiac unit at Windhoek Hospital, the first in the history of that country, and the third on the African continent after South Africa and Egypt, to provide comprehensive care for heart diseases.

Leading up to its official inauguration by the former president of South Africa Thabo Mbeki and president of Namibia Hifikepunye Pohamba in August last year, nine heart surgeries were successfully performed on patients aged between 14 and 25 years - an historic moment for a country that records more than 3000 cardiac cases a year needing surgical correction.

The Traditional Health Practitioners Act, 2007 (Act No 22 of 2007) was developed and signed by Mbeki in January last year. It led to the setting up of the Traditional Health Practitioners Council, which promotes the practice of traditional medicine, fosters relevant research and observational studies on medicinal plants, advocates for the protection of indigenous knowledge, as well as creating the environment for local production of such medicine.

When Cabinet decided to transfer the medico-legal (state) mortuaries to the Health Department in 2006, Tshabalala-Msimang led the reviewing process of the services provided, and found they were fragmented and uncoordinated.

The transfer process ushered in the setting up of the country's first comprehensive forensic pathology service.

A modernisation plan to improve the quality of the forensic service for the deceased was developed and more than R1,5billion was allocated for its implementation.

In March 2004, she set up the mid-level healthcare worker programme, which in August last year culminated in the introduction of the training of clinical associates - a fully funded programme through provision of bursaries covering tuition fees, monthly stipends and student books for the first two cohorts of clinical associate students.

Supported by the private healthcare sector, she set up a health professionals bursary in 2000. A total of 50 medical students from disadvantaged communities have benefited from the Manto Tshabalala-Msimang Health Professionals Bursary Trust.

She also introduced two new vaccines to the Expanded Programme on Immunisation in September last year to prevent viral pneumonia and viral diarrhoea in children.

Further, she contributed to the development of the African Health Ministers' Strategy, which was later described as the continent's first overarching health strategy for 2007-2015.

It was even endorsed by the WHO as comprehensive and far-sighted. - Charity Bhengu

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