No Mountain Too High for the 2013 Rural Doctors of the Year

RuDASA Press Statement: 

In a context where there are many bad-news stories, it is important that we recognise and celebrate good news. The stories of many dedicated rural doctors who provide amazing care to communities in need are seldom told. The Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa (RuDASA) inaugurated an annual award for the rural doctor of the year in 2002, to acknowledge some of those unsung heroes.

The award is presented to a rural doctor, working at the coal face, who made a significant contribution towards rural health in the previous year. The award was named after Dr Pierre Jacques, a founder member of RuDASA and a doyen of rural practice in South Africa. He spent most of his working life at Elim Hospital in rural Limpopo province and was a tireless advocate for rural health and the role of the rural doctor in South Africa. The award is presented jointly by RuDASA, the HIV Clinicians’ Society and the Rural Health Advocacy Project.

The award was again presented at the 17th Annual Rural Health Conference in St Lucia on 9 August 2013.

Dr Ben and Dr Taryn Gaunt: Teamwork and Outstanding Local Leadership
The Pierre Jacques award for 2013 was awarded to a doctor couple, Ben and Taryn Gaunt, from Zithulele hospital in the Eastern Cape.

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Update: Ending Circumcision Deaths, Mutilations and Abuse (support letter)

On 13 August 2013, the Rural Doctors Association of South Africa, in conjunction with the Junior Doctors Association of South Africa, issued a letter of support for National and Provincial Task teams to end the unnecessary deaths, mutilations and abuse that are associated with traditional circumcisions each year. 

The letter may be viewed here

In addition, an analysis of the root causes, conducted in Pondoland, is available and may be viewed here

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Rural healthcare is crying out for a good plan and a real budget

Madwaleni is one of those rural hospitals that has managed to attract and retain health professionals. Currently the hospital has 10 doctors with pharmacy, radiology, nutrition and rehabilitation health professionals as well," said the 2009 report of the integrated support team appointed by Barbara Hogan, then the minister of health, to investigate the severe overexpenditure of provincial health departments. Madwaleni hospital emerged as a shining example of good rural healthcare. By 2012, however, Madwaleni, deep in the Transkei, was "running" on a skeleton staff of only one doctor and one health professional. Nurses, under enormous pressure, were left to run the maternity ward without doctors'' support – this in a district with the highest maternal mortality rate in the country. Pregnant women needing Caesarians had to go elsewhere. The causes of the Eastern Cape health crisis are well known: the provincial health department's chronic inability to manage its resources and the historical underfunding of rural health has brought the provincial health system to its knees. In 2012, misguided attempts to deal with the department''s snowballing debt led to a moratorium on the filling of vacant posts. This has meant that, despite a number of applicants for positions at the hospital, these remain unfilled.

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Open letter in support of Positive Practice Environments

The Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa (RuDASA) and the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP) commend DENOSA and SAMA for initiating the Positive Practice Environment Campaign.

Rural health care workers are often faced with minimal resources to provide a health care service to communities in the poorest districts of the country, which are faced with high burdens of disease. RHAP receives regular reports from RuDASA members and other health care workers regarding the dismal working conditions and the right to quality health care denied to the communities they serve.We know for a fact that areas with the greatest need receive the least resources. This is not only in terms of health care workers, but also in terms of financial support. In a North West hospital in deeply rural Ganyesa, it took more than three years for a generator to be replaced and in the meantime an infant died an entirely avoidable death during childbirth. In that same hospital, as elsewhere in North West, doctors in severely understaffed facilities are expected to be on standby for overtime every second weekend, yet do not get compensated. A recipe for a high turn-over. In the Eastern Cape, Komga Clinic went from 6 to 3 nurses and entirely halted its mobile outreach clinic service. The issue has been addressed repeatedly with the National and Provincial Department of Health yet no response nor has relief been forthcoming. Rehab professionals have gone without correct payment for months, and have not been able to procure any equipment since 2009.

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Calling an end to initiation deaths and mutilations

Press Statement:
RuDASA AND JUDASA CALL FOR AN IMMEDIATE END TO THE PREDICTABLE AND AVOIDABLE ANNUAL INITIATION DEATHS AND MUTILATIONS.
15 July 2013

In 2010, Dr. John Lazarus wrote in the South African Medical Journal:  Twenty years ago two Eastern Cape urological surgeons documented their experience with treating initiates (...), they followed up 45 consecutive patients and documented a mortality rate of 9%. The death toll for the 2010 winter initiation period stood at 40 at the time of writing. These statistics not only point to the fact that little has changed, but suggest that the situation may in fact be deteriorating.”

From 2008 until 2012, the Eastern Cape Province recorded 323 deaths, with 126 initiates suffering genital amputation. At the beginning of July 2013 the EC province recorded 30 deaths and 293 hospital admissions from dehydration, septic circumcision wounds, and gangrene of the penis. We view the apparent absence of improvement with great concern.

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