Following an urgent meeting on 14 November, Makhanda (Grahamstown) general practitioners and specialist doctors assure residents that they will continue providing care to the community, as well as working to assist the Eastern Cape Department of Health with transitioning as Netcare pulls out of local hospitals.
“As Health Professionals utilising the Netcare facility at Settlers Hospital, we have yet to receive any formal communication from either the Eastern Cape Department of Health (ECDOH) or the Netcare group to confirm the planned closure of the private medical facilities at Settlers hospital and Port Alfred. As far as we are aware the contract expires in 2024. We presume there must be a written notice period or scope for renegotiation of contracts before either party withdraws prematurely from a contract.
Our primary concern as Health Professionals is the welfare and health of our patients. Whatever happens we will continue to serve our community to the best of our ability. We require the support of our provincial department of Health and its partners to do this.
Netcare informs us that there is not enough demand for the current two private facilities to be economically viable. We are surprised at this statement as the private ward at Settlers is currently full. The operating theatres are in use daily and the private consulting rooms well utilised by several visiting and permanent specialists in General Surgery, Orthopaedics, ENT, Psychiatry, Anaesthiology, Urology and Paediatrics.
The GPs in town also admit patients to the private ward daily. If there truly is not enough demand to maintain two separate private facilities in the area, then surely there is enough to maintain one of them. Demand can also be generated by increasing the supply of services through investment in staff, new specialities and equipment, e.g. CT scanner, Ultrasonography, but to name two.
As the group of local doctors, we understand the community is anxious about this possible closure. We hope it can be averted by negotiation, compromise and putting people first. We are writing to the ECDOH to offer our support to assist them in the move to NHI implementation and to offer our services in a contracted and strategic manner, to support the ECDOH junior doctors in casualty, theatre, OPD and on the wards.
If the Netcare partnership ends we would expect the ECDOH to continue to offer ward and theatre facilities for our medical aid and fee-paying patients, so we as private practitioners can continue to look after them in hospital and refer to specialists locally in Makana when they need specialist care or operations. This was how it worked prior to the public private partnership. If the public private partnership with Nalithemba does end, we will continue to care for our community, but without the Netcare banner.
Read about Netcare’s withdrawal from Settlers and Port Alfred Hospitals here: