With the right peo­ple in place, slug­gish in­sti­tu­tions can change for the bet­ter – pro­mot­ing the qual­ity of health ser­vices

CityPress - - Front Page -

At the age of 11, watch­ing his fa­ther, Morithi Makgoba, en­ter into a di­a­betic coma in the Lim­popo dis­trict of Sekhukhune shook young Male­ga­puru Makgoba to the core. It was also per­haps the rea­son he be­came a doc­tor. “See­ing the most pow­er­ful per­son, the head of my fam­ily, un­con­scious and so help­less, well, per­haps that re­in­forced my idea to pur­sue medicine – an urge to un­der­stand what had trou­bled my fa­ther,” Makgoba tells City Press. “Well, he is 94 now.” To­day, Makgoba (64), pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus and re­tired vice-chan­cel­lor of the Univer­sity of KwaZulu-Natal, looks back at a stel­lar aca­demic ca­reer that shaped South African health pol­icy, no­tably through his cri­tique of Aids de­nial­ism and his ap­peal as Med­i­cal Re­search Coun­cil pres­i­dent in 2000 to dis­trib­ute an­tiretro­vi­ral drugs to HIV-pos­i­tive pa­tients.

Among his list of qual­i­fi­ca­tions is a doc­tor­ate of phi­los­o­phy in hu­man im­muno­genet­ics from Ox­ford Univer­sity.

This week, Health Min­is­ter Aaron Mot­soaledi an­nounced that Makgoba would be South Africa’s first health om­buds­man, who will process pa­tient com­plaints against health prac­ti­tion­ers, hos­pi­tals and clin­ics across both the pri­vate and the pub­lic sec­tors.

“I will re­ceive com­plaints via email and so­cial me­dia. We’re also putting up a web­site. As om­buds­man, I will be able to me­di­ate, but won’t be able to take dis­ci­plinary ac­tion. Some of the com­plaints will then be re­ferred to the Health Pro­fes­sions Coun­cil of SA (HPCSA),” he says.

Makgoba’s new om­buds­man’s of­fice will be based in Pre­to­ria with a staff of up to 50 of­fi­cials.

“I was ap­pointed a week ago. It’s all very new still. We’re ad­ver­tis­ing three po­si­tions in news­pa­pers [to­day],” he says.

Op­er­a­tional from June 1, the new of­fice will es­tab­lish a web­site, email ad­dress and land­line num­ber through which it can re­ceive com­plaints from pa­tients wronged by both pub­lic and pri­vate health­care in­sti­tu­tions.

Makgoba be­lieves with the right peo­ple in place, slug­gish in­sti­tu­tions can change for the bet­ter.

“As om­buds­man, the premise will be to pro­mote the qual­ity of health ser­vices. We’ll look at the sys­tem as a whole, I mean in­sti­tu­tions, how are they man­aged? I be­lieve in the power of in­di­vid­u­als, putting the right peo­ple in place.”

As a stu­dent at Natal Univer­sity’s Med­i­cal School for non-Euro­peans, Makgoba wit­nessed the birth of the black con­scious­ness move­ment and was greatly in­flu­enced by the lead­er­ship of Steve Biko.

His early think­ing was in­formed by Biko’s mes­sage: “Learn to think for your­self” – un­der­pinned by in­tel­lec­tual rea­son­ing.

“I of­ten said that po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists like Steve, and Mamphela Ramphele’s most im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tions were that they were able to put their in­tel­lect and ideas into writ­ing,” he says.

Makgoba’s views on trans­for­ma­tion have earned him ac­co­lades, while spark­ing equal amounts of out­rage.

Over the years, con­tro­versy has fol­lowed him around cam­puses and com­mit­tees, where fel­low aca­demics have de­scribed him as “un­apolo­get­i­cally rad­i­cal”.

In 1995, clashes en­sued shortly af­ter his ap­point­ment as deputy vice-chan­cel­lor at the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand when 13 se­nior aca­demics – all but one of whom were white – lodged a 297-page dossier of com­plaints against him. Makgoba in turn an­nounced his in­ten­tion to re­place the univer­sity’s “dom­i­nant Euro­cen­trism” and calling the univer­sity lead­er­ship a “small in­bred elite”.

This week he told City Press that re­ac­tions at the time had been de­fen­sive and racialised.

“My own sense is that in 1995 when I wrote about this whole de­coloni­sa­tion and African­i­sa­tion thing, peo­ple saw me as a threat and not some­one wish­ing to con­trib­ute to pos­i­tive change,” he said. “I wish peo­ple hadn’t seen it as threat­en­ing. In­stead of be­ing em­brac­ing, they grew de­fen­sive.” Although we speak on the phone, his grin was au­di­ble. “Now, we’re al­most be­ing forced at gun point to change. We can all see that change is in­evitable in South Africa”. Makgoba be­came the Univer­sity of Natal’s first black vice-chan­cel­lor in 2002, and held on to the po­si­tion when it merged with the Univer­sity of Dur­ban-Westville. He re­tired last year, mov­ing from Dur­ban back to Sekhukhune, where he built him­self a new house com­plete with a study known as his “Makgoba Mu­seum” – a small room ded­i­cated to his ca­reer – where cer­tifi­cates, memorabilia and awards are dis­played.

“I’m back on my par­ents’ small­hold­ing where I grew up. I al­ways said the day I re­tire I will go back home.”

When he starts his new job next month, Makgoba will stay in Pre­to­ria dur­ing the week and at home in Sekhukhune over week­ends. In his home vil­lage, his mother, Mak­goadi (84), is also alive and well.

“If I don’t re­turn to de­velop my own vil­lage, who will do it for me? It’s a part of my iden­tity,” he said.

BREAK­ING THE MOULD Pro­fes­sor Male­ga­puru Makgoba

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.