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It's been hard, but we're going to get things right: Gauteng health MEC promises big changes

Gauteng health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku says he has a plan to ensure healthcare in the province is improved.
Gauteng health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku says he has a plan to ensure healthcare in the province is improved.
Image: Alaister Russel/Sunday Times

Two months into the job, newly-appointed Gauteng health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku says his journey has been a roller-coaster ride so far.

"I haven't felt that I have arrived, like I have settled in. I don't think I have landed as yet; we're in the process of landing," he told SowetanLIVE sister publication TimesLIVE.

Born and bred in Soweto, the 43-year-old said his typical day involved back-to-back meetings, hospital visits and a lot of reading up.

Despite long days on the job, the married father of three still finds the time to feed his two-month-old son, who was born two days before he was sworn in, and play with his two other sons.

Masuku was appointed to the tough position two months ago. Some of the the burning issues he has faced include overcrowding at hospitals, staff shortages, lack of infrastructure, filing systems and alleged under-spending of the budget.

After completing his high schooling at Sekano-Ntoane Secondary School, which President Cyril Ramaphosa also attended, Masuku enrolled at the University of Pretoria to pursue what he described as his first love: medicine.

"I've always known that I wanted to study medicine. My first experience in the ward as medicine intern was at a maternity ward. It combines being a doctor with a little bit of surgery. Ever since, I've always had a passion to do it," he said.

Prior his appointment as MEC, Masuku was the head of the obstetrics and gynaecology unit at the Thelle Mohoerane Regional Hospital in Vosloorus.

The obstetrics and gynaecology graduate did not, however, allow his studies to interfere with his other love - politics.

"I've been an activist all my life, or maybe the better part of my thinking life."

His political background includes serving as president of a student representative council (SRC) president and involvement with the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) and the ANC Youth League.

Speaking of how he took the news of his appointment, Masuku said it was daunting task, but intended to give his all.

Among his initial challenges was putting a solid team in his office.

"Putting together a team was a big thing for the office because of the complex nature of our sector and environment we work in. So we had to do careful consideration of people who would come in and help the MEC," he said.

With his portfolio allocated at least R 5ANC Youth League,0.8bn, among his priorities were improving conditions at the 10 "worst-performing" hospitals in the province, and ensuring the 24-hour clinics and point of care missions - which are said to decrease queues at the hospitals - were fully functional.

The worst performing hospitals include, Jubilee, Bheki Mlangeni, Tambo Memorial, Mamelodi, Edenvale, Thelle Mogoerane and Tembisa.

Just last month, an image showing an overcrowded maternity ward at Tembisa Hospital sparked outrage over the under-resourced care that pregnant women receive. The ward had at least 96 pregnant women at the time, with two midwives having to look after them.

Masuku said he had a plan in place, and intended not only to change the conditions at hospitals but also the conversation around healthcare.

"It's a known fact [that] there is almost an adversarial relationship between our health workers and the community. The number of attacks on our health workers, the number of negative comments about our health workers on social media, clearly shows that we need to correct something," he said.

Masuku said the department needed to do more to improve staff morale.

"This means we need to try and get more staff employed and have to get appropriate tools of trade, and that will also make reduced time in terms of our staff not being overworked. I think if you have more staff employed, no one will feel overworked," he said.

While there has been much negativity surrounding his department, some good had also been reported. Masuku said that the department would reward good work and excellence, and those accused of wrongdoing would be held to account or re-trained.

Masuku said a human resources programme had been be rolled out at health facilities across Gauteng among a set of solutions.

With his wealth of knowledge and experience, Masuku is confident he is the right man for the job and within a year's time hopes to see the fruits of his laboúr, despite former colleagues not staying longer in office.

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