Behind the rhetoric of government’s cost cutting measures to contain budget deficits, there are tragic human stories. Tumasera village councilor in Tswapong South Constituency, Obitseng Gabadise told Sunday Standard how a pregnant woman who was in labour died before she could get medical help because there was no ambulance to rush her to hospital. Gabasiane whose private car is having to stand in for ambulances has lost count of the number of times he has had to ferry critically ill patients from Sefhare Primary Hospital to Mahalapye Hospital because there were no ambulances.
“Sometimes nurses are the ones who call and plead with me to rush patients to referral hospitals or to collect life saving drugs.” He says there are times when ill patients have been left stranded because he did not have the means to help. Makwate Councillor also in Tswapong South, John Masala revealed how two critically ill patients in the village were left to die at the clinic because there was no transport to rush them to a referral hospital where they could get medical assistance. He said some villagers who are on ARV therapy are being forced to share drugs because they have to travel long distances to get their prescriptions. He said initially, there was an arrangement in place for a mobile clinic in Sefhare to provide ARV drugs to Makwate residents, but the arrangement has since collapsed because of lack of transport.
The Tswapong South transport crisis is reported to be so bad that the Sefhare primary Hospital has resorted to using public transport to ferry patients and distribute ARV drugs to the 12 clinics it serves in the constituency. Some of these clinics are in places such as Ramokgonami, Tumasera, Seleka, Maape, Mhalapitsa, Mokobeng and Pilikwe. In some instances, patients whose conditions cannot be treated at the primary hospital and have to be referred to bigger hospitals are given travel warrants to use public transport. Ministry of Health spokesperson Doreen Motshegwa admitted that the ministry is faced with a serious transport crisis.
She however said the situation was being addressed. “I cannot dispute that the ministry does issue transport warrants to patients but that happens only in cases where patients are not critically ill”. She said in the case of Sefhare Primary Hospital, only one patient has so far been issued with a travelling warrant to go to one of the referral hospitals being either, Mahalapye or Nyangabgwe hospital in Francistown and the patient was not in a life threatening condition. Regarding the transportation of ARVs by public transport she stated that she was not aware of such instances.
Motshwegwa further stated that the ministry has awarded a contract to a courier company to transport medication to areas where it is needed as a way of intervention. Member of Parliament for Tswapong South and Assistant Minister of Agriculture Oreeditse Molebatsi said “I am fully aware that there is a shortage of ambulances at Sefhare hospital “. He however said he was not aware that patients are now being given travel warrants to seek medical attention at referral hospitals. The Assistant Minister says he doubts if that really happens. Chief Medical Officer at Sefhare Primary Hospital Dr Tuduetso Gomo told Sunday Standard that she was not authorized to speak to the media.