Long queues continue to plague hospitals in South Africa. A survey conducted in July 2014 regarding the South African public’s perception of the Minister of Health reveals that 44% of respondents rate the minister’s performance as “very poor” in this area. The survey was commissioned by Justice and Peace Commission for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference and was conducted online by Acentric.  Having a 5.6% margin of error,  the survey was designed to approximately represent those living in Metro areas in terms of age, gender, income and household income.

The survey focussed on a number of issues, particularly the long queues at hospitals and clinics, ill-treatment of pregnant women, rising costs of private health care, the shortage of ambulances and the bad upkeep of hospital premises.

Survey results identified that 44% of respondents’ biggest gripe is with long queues in government hospitals and clinics. This is not surprising, since one often has to wait an entire day for a consultation, which is the last thing anyone feels like doing when they feel ill. Even then, one sometimes has to come back another day if the queue is too long. The issue of long queues was also identified in previous surveys, and appears to be a continued problem. We urge the minister to address this and make it a top priority.

36% of respondents were unhappy with the disrespectful manner in which nurses treat pregnant women, and 36% complained about the ever-rising cost of private health care, which continually forces more people to use government facilities, thereby rendering the staff at these facilities incapable of helping everyone timeously. Approximately 33% of interviewees believe that there are too few ambulances, especially in rural areas, and 30% are unimpressed by the state of certain hospitals, which are not properly maintained and repaired.

Only 15% of respondents thought the district health managers were competent, and only 14% believe there are sufficient health inspectors to conduct unannounced inspections at hospitals and clinics. Roughly 15% were happy with the number of trained doctors and nurses, while 14% had positive feedback regarding the decreasing number of mothers dying during childbirth and new cases of HIV infection.

Older respondents, particularly those over 50, tended to give the South African Minster of Health much lower ratings. This is most likely because the elderly are exposed to the healthcare system far more frequently. White respondents, too, gave the minister much lower ratings and had a more negative overall view of South Africa’s public health system.

The Minister of Health is urged to immediately address these perceptions and other issues within South Africa’s health system.

The SACBC Justice and Peace commission plans to continue to monitor the situation, as part of a broader range of faith-based initiatives. SACBC justice and peace commission website: www.the5thgospels.wpengine.com and www.prayingthehumanrightsnews.net

Acentric website: www.acentric.co.za