The Institute for Accountability has been successful in its request to the Public Protector to investigate the severe shortage of paediatric ICU facilities in government hospitals.
The non-profit group, which works to uphold constitutionalism and accountability in southern Africa, believes that this shortage of state paediatric ICU facilities is grossly improper, unconstitutional and illegal.
Due to the high volume of complaints received in recent years, the office of the Public Protector (OPP) has indicated the need for assistance from the Institute for Accountability in properly investigating the complaint.
The Institute will assist the OPP in the investigation by offering its legal and organisational expertise on a pro-bono basis, but is concerned that its ability to fulfil its role might be compromised by a lack of financial support.
Director at the Institute, advocate Paul Hoffman has issued a ‘Call to Commitment’ to individuals and like-minded organisations to support the OPP’s investigation by making a donation to the Institute for Accountability.
Following unsuccessful attempts to engage with the Department of Health and the relevant parliamentary committee on this issue, the Institute sent a complaint to the OPP in July requesting that she investigate the matter, which was accepted in August.
“State doctors are being forced to make ethically challenging decisions giving rise to life-threatening prejudice against critically-ill children who get admitted to general wards, where had there been sufficient ICU facilities, they would without a doubt have been admitted,” says Hoffman.
In 2011 it was reported that 75 000 children under the age of five died in the country every year, of these 23 000 died in the first four weeks of life.
Hoffman says that the constitutional rights that every child has to basic healthcare services, and that all South Africans have to emergency medical treatment have been violated.
He says that state hospitals should be capacitated to cope with the anticipatable demand for paediatric ICU facilities, which are regarded as basic healthcare facilities. In reality, this is not the case and has resulted in a situation which is in violation of the rights laid out in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
In South Africa, about 80% of ICU facilities are dedicated to adults, placing children and infants at a life-threatening disadvantage.
“South Africa has one of the highest mortality rates for children under five in the world,” says Hoffman, “This is wholly unnecessary in a country whose resources are not so limited as to prevent it from providing ICU facilities and resources in full measure.”
Hoffman believes that this situation has arisen largely due to the lack of accountability, expertise and capacity of management to effectively and efficiently spend the budget allocated to healthcare.
“Discretionary state expenditure, which is so often wholly unnecessary, unused, and wasteful, should not be allowed to compromise the effective and efficient delivery of the socio-economic rights set out in the Constitution, but nowhere to be seen almost a generation after the liberation of the South African people,” he says.