Media Statement by KZN Health MEC, Ms Nomagugu Simelane, on the occasion of the welcoming of babies born on New Year's Day, at Harry Gwala (ex-Edendale) Regional Hospital

01 January 2023

As the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, we are pleased to announce that the Province of KwaZulu-Natal has welcomed a total of 75 New Year's Day babies, which is made up of 43 girls and 32 boys.

We congratulate all the mothers and their families for these new bundles of joy, who start their lives at the beginning of the new year.

Addington Hospital had the Province's first New Year's baby, a boy weighing 3,4kg. He was born exactly at midnight, to a 17 year-old mother. The baby's father is 19 years-old.

Worryingly, the Province's youngest mother is a 15 year-old girl, who gave birth to a baby girl, at Port Shepstone Hospital. The father of her baby is also 15 years old.

We also have two 16 year-old mothers, who gave birth at Queen Nandi and Nkandla hospitals respectively. The father of the baby born at Nkandla is 23 years-old, while the age of the father of the baby born to the 16 year-old at Queen Nandi Memorial Hospital is unknown at this stage.

Here at Harry Gwala Regional Hospital we've had a total of five New Year babies, made up of two girls and one boy.

Girls aged under 18 falling pregnant

Once again, we have to register our concern that the trend of young girls falling pregnant, well below the age of 18, is clearly continuing. If it happens consistently every Christmas and New Year's Day, as we have seen, it clearly means it's probably happening every single day of the year. It means more and more girls are placing their own health, and that of their unborn babies in jeopardy by falling pregnant too early.

Just imagine these two 15 year-olds school children, who are now saddled with the responsibility and related complications of raising a baby.

What it means is that they had sex when they were both 14 years old. That is not normal, and we should never allow it to be.

These are just children. They are nowhere near ready for the responsibilities that come with bringing a child into the world.

We therefore can never over-emphasise the risks that our girls are getting exposed to when they fall pregnant. Not only are they in danger of potentially fatal pregnancy-related ailments, but their prospects of fulfilling their potential as human beings are considerably compromised.

In the case of the 16 year-old who was impregnated by the 23 year-old, that child was 15 when she fell pregnant. That constitutes statutory rape. At 22 years, should have known that this was unacceptable. So, how much longer are we going to allow this kind of thing to happen? We shouldn't. And something needs to change.

While we will continue with our efforts to fight teenage pregnancy, we once again call upon parents, guardians, educators and community leaders to have open and frank conversations with their children about the benefits of abstinence and responsible sexual behaviour.

Overcoming the fear to get tested for diseases (Let's not bury our heads in the sand

It's a time for you and I to know our HIV status; and to find out whether or not we are at high risk of suffering from diseases such as diabetes, heart attack, stroke, cancer, and other potentially deadly ailments.

We need to be cognisant of the fact that, not getting tested and knowing your health status does not make you "safe" from diseases. Instead of burying your head in the sand, it's much better to know where you stand, so that if you're at risk of any disease, the appropriate intervention can then be made to keep you alive and healthy.

So, let's overcome that fear to get tested.

This kind of approach will also prevent disease symptoms from manifesting when it's simply too late for us to intervene. We also call on men to stop this tendency of thinking that their female partners will test for HIV "on their behalf", because it's not uncommon for one partner to be HIV-positive, while the other is HIV-negative.

So, sithi makube wu-mazitest-ele please!!!

This is also a very opportune moment for those who know their HIV status but have stopped taking their treatment, to get back on the programme.

If you skip your Anti-Retroviral Treatment, even if it's just "for a day or two," you are giving HIV the chance to multiply rapidly in your body. It's even far, far worse when this becomes your way of life for weeks and months on end... It's nothing but a recipe for disaster.

The direct consequence of not taking your Anti-Retroviral Treatment is a weakened immune system, which can make you very sick, and even lead to an unnecessary death.

As the Department of Health, we are saying the best way to stay healthy and to protect others is to get to a point where your viral load is undetectable, and to keep it that way.

Don't let your chronic medication "go on holiday" just because of the holiday season:

During the festive season, we tend to see a lot of defaulting, especially by people on chronic medication, which can be dangerous.

We therefore wish to take this opportunity to encourage people, especially those who home for the holidays, to make certain that they have enough medical supplies.

The fact that we are in the holiday season should not mean we must "take a holiday" from taking our medication as prescribed. It's important that we guard against that, so that the medication will work properly, at all times.

Exercising and following a healthier diet:

This is also a good time for us to start thinking seriously about changing and improving our eating habits, and to follow a healthier and balanced diet, as much as possible.

Activities such as taking up regular exercising have a number of benefits, such as weight control, and can help reduce the risk of stroke and heart diseases, and also enable the better management of blood sugar and insulin levels.

Message to KZN Health Departmental staff: Looking within and remembering why we are in the public health sector

For us in the public health sector, the beginning of the year is also a very good time to reflect on our own ethics and value systems as healthcare professionals.

It's a time for us to reflect on why we are nurses, doctors, allied health workers, and health support staff?

It's a time for us to ask ourselves tough questions, such as whether we still uphold those time-honoured values of treating the people we serve with courtesy, respect, and dignity. Are we treating the public in the same manner that we would like our own relatives to be treated?

Or are we viewing our clients as a nuisance that must be treated with disdain, and spoken to just anyhow.

We need to remember that the people who come to our facilities are not "an irritation." People do not leave their homes and come to us because they had nothing better to do. They come to us because they are not well; and they have nowhere else to go.

We are all that they have.

Bathembele kithina. So, the way we carry ourselves... the way we speak to people, and how we handle them when they're in front of us, can either make or break them.

When you delay the start of your shift at the clinic in the morning; and continue talking or texting on your phones instead of working; or when you all go on lunch break at the same time and leave people waiting for hours on end; you're failing our people.

You're failing your own professional oaths and pledges. You're failing this Government. And we will NOT allow that!!!

People should not feel sicker when they think about visiting our healthcare facilities. They should not be saying, "I'd rather die here at home, than visit that clinic, CHC, or hospital." And yet, these are the stories we hear from people.

Not having a medical aid should not be a disgrace or a curse for our fellow compatriots. Part of being a healthcare professional should entail giving hope and being an inspiration, and that should manifest through people's lived experience when they visit out facilities.

Our country is in economic trouble, and resources are scarce. Let's come up with creative solutions to the challenges we encounter. That's what management is about.

So, to all healthcare workers around the Province, please do your job.

And those who manage facilities must do exactly that: they must manage.

And they must not be afraid to deal decisively with people who are doing the wrong things, and treating our people badly.

To healthcare facility managers in particular, do not allow yourselves to be bullied by those who think they can just do as they please.

Our job is to save lives, and heal the sick.

So, let us remember that, being in the health sector is not just a job, but a calling. It is not "work", or a "dead-end job", but a vocation. That is how it must be seen. As something from which we should all derive a deep sense of satisfaction, because we're supposed to save lives and give hope to the hopeless out there.

Despite what ever challenges we may be going through, let us not forget that each and every day presents us with an opportunity to make someone's day, and give them a reason to live another day.

That is a very powerful position, which on its own, should be giving us a sense of personal reward.

So, as we enter the New Year, let us try and rediscover ourselves, and the reason why we exist, and embrace the people that we are called upon to serve.

This should not be a New Year's Resolution that fizzles out after a few days, weeks, or months; but a way of doing things that we carry with ourselves for the duration of our carriers.

To those who discharge their duties with dedication, commitment and hard work, may you continue to be the leading lights that make us proud. We know there are many of you. Siyawubonga umsebenzi wenu omuhle. Please, ningadikibali.

We also call upon the public to remember that respect is a two-way street, and that disrespecting or abusing our healthcare professionals will not be tolerated in what ever way, shape or form.

Issued by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health

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This page last edited on 11 July, 2023

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