A team of national ministers has been tasked with a countrywide tour to clean up lingering confusion over national Aids policy.
The move coincides with wide- spread fears that some provinces are not implementing either the recent High Court order to expand access to nevirapine or last month's Cabinet decision to roll-out other aspects of the national treatment programme.
It is hoped the task team, with support from the Office for the President, will pave the way for a more comprehensive national effort against the Aids epidemic, said the head of the Health Department's HIV/Aids directorate, Dr Nono Simelela.
Some senior staff have suggested the task team is, at least partly, a response to the chaotic state of healthcare in some provinces, in particular Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape, where administrative bungling has derailed Aids programmes.
In Mpumalanga, concerns over the competency of Health MEC Sibongile Manana have been raised and some hospital administrators claim the health service is being run as her personal fiefdom.
We have a provincial administration where everyone is basically petrified, said the acting superintendent of Rob Ferreira hospital in Nelspruit, Dr Pat Saffy.
Saffy took over from Dr Thys von Mollendorff , who was suspended for allowing doctors to dispense anti-Aids drugs to rape survivors at the hospital.
We don't know what is going to happen next, Saffy said, adding that doctors at some of the province's biggest hospitals had given up waiting for
Other health officials say the extent of the problem is summed up by Manana's ongoing efforts to evict an NGO assisting rape survivors with drug treatment, despite the Cabinet decision to offer treatment where capacity exists.
On the day the decision was made, rape counsellors received their latest eviction order.
These problems had been discussed at national level, Sibani Mngadi, spokesman for Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, said. The Cabinet decision was binding on all provinces and this was emphasised at a briefing for health MECs this week.
The understanding we got from the provinces is that everyone is going to do what Cabinet expects, Mngadi said.
The task team would focus on communicating Cabinet's decision as clearly as possible. The national Health Department had provided information packs in this regard, spokesman Joanne Collinge said. She said the team comprised of ministers with a wide range of portfolios.
There is also concern about the roll out of treatment in the Eastern Cape, where only R17-million of the health budget has been earmarked for nevirapine access.
Aids activist and doctor, Costa Gazi, said several Eastern Cape hospitals were ready and waiting for the drug, but to date nothing had arrived.
In contrast, other provinces, such as Limpopo, had taken steps to speed up delivery by authorising hospitals to appoint their own staff, thereby circumventing needless delays.
Times, 05 May 2002