Dr Beth Engelbrecht has been appointed as the new Head of the Western Cape Department of Health (WC DoH).

During a press conference held today by Health Minister Theuns Botha it was announced that Dr Engelbrecht will officially take over from Prof Househam in April 2015 when he retires. She will be the first female Head of the department of the Western Cape.

Dr Engelbrecht was previously the Director of District Health Services for the Free State Provincial Government and joined the WC DoH in 2001 as Deputy Director General. She was effectively responsible as Chief of Operations with responsibilities that included specialist health services, emergency services, district health services and primary health service.

Prof Househam explained that there will be a six month handover process where he will work side by side with Dr Engelbrecht in handing over the huge task of managing the department “This hand-over period is aimed at ensuring maximum stability, continuity and a seamless change in leadership,” said Prof Househam.

Dr Engelbrecht outlined her vision and strategy for the next five years, focusing primarily on the realisation of the Healthcare 2030 Strategy to provide quality person-centred care. She outlined her top five priorities, namely improving the patient experience; ensuring positive staff attitude towards their work; improving health outcomes and strategies; and developing a resilient and responsive health system.

Dr Engelbrecht acknowledged the role eHealth in delivering quality healthcare and prioritised the roll out of eHealth systems across the province. She explained how public hospitals such as Tygerberg and GF Jooste will soon be revamped and fitted with eHealth systems that have already been implemented in newer facilities like Khayelitsha Hospital.

“The department also plans to roll out PHCIS to more healthcare facilities and further develop patient records to add more depth. The WC is already the only province to have unique patient numbers that are recognisable and accessible from our three main eHealth systems – PHCIS, JAC and Clinicom – from all healthcare facilities, so it’s a priority to further add on to that,” said Dr Engelbrecht.

Dr Engelbrecht also highlighted the importance of using eHealth to capture quality data and harness big data to realise predictive healthcare planning.

Dr Engelbrecht concluded by saying how the WC DoH is keen to continue collaborating with other provincial DoHs to help improve their health systems. “We have already shared our lab gate-keeping system with most provinces to a great degree of success; our ultimate goal is to have an effective national health system,” said Dr Engelbrecht.

Minister Botha noted that the WC government was very fortunate to have had so many good applications for the position, and that they have “full confidence in Dr Engelbrecht’s abilities and that she’s more than capable of continuing Prof Househam’s outstanding work in the department.”

Prof Househam added that “the department couldn’t ask for a better person for the job; Dr Engelbrecht is well qualified for this challenging role and there’s no greater honour as a citizen of this country than to be of service as a senior manager whereby you can make a real difference to individual communities and the country.”

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