Statement by Provincial Health Minister, Pierre Uys, highlighting Occupational Therapy Week (10 to 14 May).
In the Western Cape's Health Department occupational therapists work in diverse settings such as psychiatry, orthopaedics, neurology and pediatrics.
Occupational Therapy (OT) is the profession that aims at assisting individuals to lead as independent a life as possible through occupational engagement. Traditionally employed mainly in hospitals as part of the multi-disciplinary team, OT's are now working in diverse settings in public and private sectors. In our current environment of rapid social change, poverty and lack of resources, occupational therapists find themselves working as human rights activists addressing socio-cultural issues on various levels.
The Employment Equity Act has opened the door for people with disabilities to have access to employment in the open labour market and vocational rehabilitation is one of the specialist areas within the sphere of OT.
The Department of Health has four work-assessment areas, namely at Groote Schuur, Tygerberg, Stikland and Lentegeur Hospitals. As a result of a tremendously high workload, the main thrust of the service, namely vocational rehabilitation, has been largely diverted to the evaluation of patients for disability grants for the Department of Social Services. Because of the upcoming awareness week I have been made aware of this OT challenge of the need for a new focus on vocational rehabilitation and I will be investigating the matter.
With health care moving its focus to primary-level services, the need for occupational therapy is essential in especially the rural areas. We have OT's covering our small rural towns such as Nelspoort in the Southern Cape Karoo region and Bitterfontein in the West Coast Winelands region where they are delivering a service at clinics and in the homes of the people themselves. The Boland/Overberg region is currently our best-resourced region in terms of rehabilitation services, with community-based OT's at each of the sub-districts. Eben Donges and Brewelskloof hospitals also have very well-developed occupational therapy services.
The Western Cape has just hosted the Occupational Therapy Association of South Africa Congress and this was a wonderful opportunity for OT's to engage with one another and the different sectors involved in rehabilitation.
With the expected implementation of free health care to people with disabilities, access to rehabilitation (both in physical rehabilitation and mental health care) services is a crucial component of this comprehensive health care service.
It is clear that our therapists are doing good work and it gives me great pleasure to be able to give my wholehearted support to the Occupational Therapy Awareness Week.
For more information you can contact:
Elizabeth Pegram: 083 442 7302
Assistant Director: Rehabilitation
Directorate: Public Health Programmes
Sub-Directorate: Chronic Care, Care of the Elderly, Rehabilitation & Home-based Care
Tel : 021 483 3219
Fax: 021 483 4345