Speech by MEC for health Dr Magome Masike during the signing of Memorandum of Understanding between the North West Department of Health and the Fred Hollows Foundation of South Africa event held at the Mafikeng Provincial Hospital Recreational Hall
12 Jun 2012Programme Director, Dr Badu Mothusi,
Head of Department, Maj. Gen. Dr Mokheti Radebe,
DDG for Health Services, Dr Andrew Robinson,
Executive Managers of the Department present here today,
Our partners from the Fred Hollows Foundation of South Africa,
Health Professionals present here today,
Employees of the department,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is indeed an honour and privilege for me to be part of this auspicious occasion today. We have gathered here to witness the signing of the memorandum of understanding which is a formal agreement between both the North West Department of Health and the Fred Hollows Foundation of South Africa with the common goal of accelerating the provision of eye care services for all our people regardless of where they live.
In April 2000 the World Health Organisation together with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness announced the Global Initiative for the Elimination of Avoidable Blindness called Vision 2020, the then South Africa Minister of Health, Dr Manto Tshabalala Msimang signed the declaration of intent to support the Vision 2020 project on behalf of South Africa.
The aim of the Vision 2020 project was to eliminate the main causes of avoidable blindness by the year 2020 by bringing together governments and non-governmental agencies to facilitate the planning, development and implementation of sustainable national eye care programmes.
With the implementation of Vision 2020, the intention was not only to alleviate individual suffering but to increase quality of life of the affected person and reduce the socio-economic burden. Key to eliminating avoidable blindness comprises of, access to medical and rehabilitative care, adequately distributed trained eye care professionals, availability of appropriate infrastructure and efficient referral and support systems.
Ladies and gentlemen, today avoidable blindness is a major cause of unnecessary human suffering, often leading to poverty, social exclusion from our society and early death. It is estimated that 39 million people worldwide today live with blindness and 245 million with low vision. To add salt to the wounds, 90% of the blind live in low income countries like ours. Ironically, 80% of blindness is preventable and treatable.
We never have sufficient resources to address all the health needs including the eye health services of the communities in the North West province. That is why we need partnerships, so that we mobilise all the resources we can get to tackle our health challenges. I am glad that the Fred Hollows Foundation of South Africa has risen to the challenge. This valuable Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) has been assisting rural areas with eye health services and has been working in partnership with the North West Provincial Department of Health since 2008.
The relationship between us as the North West Department of Health and the Fred Hollows Foundation has been governed by short term annual agreements which were setting out the intended nature of support by the NGO to the department. I am glad that today we cement this partnership for much wide reach of our clients. No doubt we will be able to help many of our communities from now onwards.
In the health sector, we believe in scientific evidence of anything medical that we do and this has been the principle upon which we engage with the Foundation. To this end, a baseline survey and the Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) has been conducted. Both the dDepartment and the Fred Hollows Foundation agreed that while research based assessments are ongoing, the Foundation will work towards supporting the department on efforts directed largely at human resource development. With all this efforts I am happy to announce that the department has been able to achieve the following:
The preparatory process for a long term relationship between Fred Hollows Foundation of South Africa and the Department is now completed.
- Undertaking a Rapid Assessment for Avoidable Blindness survey
- Development of a Provincial Eye Health Plan
- Development of a Programme Design Document
- Training of a handful of eye care professionals which include:
- Ophthalmologist on MSICS technique
- Managers on Organisational and Financial Management to achieve Vision 2020 in Africa
- Professional Nurses on Diploma in Ophthalmic Nursing Science
- Professional Nurses and Optometrist on Primary Eye Care
- Clinical engineers on servicing ophthalmic equipment.
Ladies and gentleman I must say that this significant partnership with this NGO is a clear indication of how serious we take programmes of eye care in this province.
As the ANC led government, in our efforts to provide and improve service delivery to our citizens, we are guided by principles of “Batho Pele - People first”. With the memorandum of understanding we are going to sign today, which is a formal agreement between both the Health Department and the Fred Hollows Foundation of South Africa; our people are indeed experiencing Batho Pele. They will be accessing essential government information and services, specifically focusing on eye care.
Furthermore, today and into the future, health workers are charged with the responsibility to raise awareness on sight issues and motivate our communities and leaders to participate and develop programmes relating to eye care.
Programme director, I would like to conclude by commending the Fred Hollows Foundation of South Africa for the sterling job they are doing not only here in the North West Province but across the country in ensuring that our people receive quality eye care services regardless of where they live. Sometimes we do not meet too often to be able to tell you how much we appreciate your valuable contribution but this is the opportune moment for me to say, thank you. You are doing a great job and the Department is proud to be associated with you.
This effort must be seen as a challenge to all stakeholders and it must urge all of us to play our part and meaningfully contribute to the provision of quality health care services, specifically focusing on eye care to our fellow South Africans.
Government alone cannot do everything on its own. It is only through partnerships like this one, that quality health care services can be able to reach poor communities in our rural province.
Indeed working together we can better the lives of our people and achieve more! I depend on you as partners to advice me, to share your experiences and best practices going forward.
I thank you.
Issued by: North West Health
12 Jun 2012
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