President Mbeki has appointed Transport Minister Jeff Radebe as the Acting Health Minister.
TAC welcomes the President's effort to address the problem of leadership in the Department of Health following the illness of the Minister of Health. We wish the Minister and her family well at this difficult time.
However, we are concerned about the amount of time Minister Jeff Radebe, who will now have two concurrent portfolios, will be able to dedicate to leading the department when the Department of Health is developing the critical National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (NSP).
We point this out because last year, when the Minister was absent, an acting minister was appointed. This measure did not resolve the leadership problem in the department, not even in the interim.
We are concerned that if the challenge of leadership in the Health Department persists, the ambitious targets being set for reducing new infections, providing treatment, care and support to people living with HIV will be undermined. While all government departments will have NSP targets to meet, it is the Health Department that must do most of the work and lead the implementation of the NSP.
The public health system is in crisis and requires dedicated leadership. We therefore urge the President to consider all these issues.