Former EC Health MEC, Dr Trudy Thomas, dies

16:14 (GMT+2) Mon, 11 Jun 2018

Former Eastern Cape Health MEC, Dr Trudy Thomas, has died.

Her family said in a statement on Monday that Thomas (82) died in Johannesburg this weekend after a lengthy illness.

“She served in the first democratic provincial government of Premier Ray Mhlaba from 1994 to 1999 and played a key role in building the new provincial health department, bringing together the administrations of the former “independent” homelands of Transkei and Ciskei, with sections of the former Cape Provincial Administration.”

Thomas, who was born on the West Rand, trained at Wits University and Baragwanath Hospital, before moving to the Eastern Cape as a young doctor to work in the mission hospital of St Matthews, near Keiskammahoek.

“There, she became a community health pioneer and collaborator with Black Consciousness icon Steve Biko,” the family statement said.

“She became well known both for her clear assertion that the reasons for poor health in the homelands were to be found in apartheid and migrant labour, and for her work in developing clinics and primary health care services across the then Ciskei”.

A member of the Black Sash, she specialised in community health at UCT, and became active in health activism in the 1980s. Thomas was active in the SA National Civics Organisation, End Conscription Campaign and other structures. 

In the country’s founding democratic election in 1994, she was elected to the first Eastern Cape legislature and appointed to the province’s executive committee.

“Increasingly critical of budgetary constraints imposed on the province, she left the legislature after the 1999 election, and later resigned from the ANC also, in what she described as “the saddest day of my life”.  

She was awarded the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights in 1996, and honoured with an honorary doctorate by Rhodes University in 2003.

Her memoir, Healthy Outrage, appeared in 2017.

Dr. Thomas leaves four children and six grandchildren.

(Statement:  Supplied)