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GP Health Department and Wits sign MOU

- Kemantha Govender

Wits University and the Gauteng Department of Health have committed to greater co-operation to address health care challenges in the province.

Qedani Mahlangu, MEC for Health and Wits Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Tuesday, 10 May 2016.

At the signing, Habib praised the manner in which the national government and the Gauteng and Limpopo provincial governments worked with Wits to deal with the recent tragedy in which the seven students from the University lost their lives, and believes this collaboration could mean great things for Gauteng residents.

The VC noted that the injured students involved in the tragedy were transported to the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital within 24 hours and had access to specialist services because government “came together in an incredible way.”

“If we can get our public institutions to start engaging each other in the ways they should be engaging, we could fundamentally change the quality of life for all of our citizens,” said Habib.

The VC said he noticed that there are porous boundaries between institutions and universities while still maintaining autonomy and this is one of the reasons why Wits is excited about this relationship. “Unless we come together we are unable to address the historic challenges that we come from.”

Habib is confident that the number of doctors produced in South Africa could increase with such partnerships. Both Mahlangu and Habib felt that doctors are directed at curative care rather than primary health care and this concern which has been raised previously, needs to change.

Habib said this MOU represents hope, that we can overcome our institutional boundaries and begin to build a partnership that will provide this country with more medical personnel.

“We have to start producing our own knowledge. If we are always going to be reliant on the knowledge of the rest of the world, we are going to be importing medication that is not always appropriate to our circumstances,” said Habib. The high cost of medication is also a concern for Habib.

Professor Martin Veller, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences said the road to the MOU has been a long journey.

“It is one that is based on the fact that we are inextricably linked and what we have to achieve in terms of providing the service and training components is really one and the same. To a large degree it has been an area that we are not where we should be but I look forward to future engagements that will take both our mandates forward,” said Veller.

Mahlangu said government wants doctors to be part of the global research community but at the same time should not compromise in service delivery. She added that although South Africa has more doctors in the private sector, the training grounds remain top public hospitals in the country. She also said it is important to continue investing in technology so that the health care system can provide more efficient services. 

Habib said it would also be ideal for other South African universities to open medical schools because the nation needs to produce more health care professionals. He said that Wits would commit to providing support should this happen.