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‘Dept on verge of of collapse’


Many health facilities in the Province face a dire shortage of staff

From left: Advocate Boitumelo Babuseng, the DA leader in the Province, Andrew Louw, and Team One South Africa spokesperson on Basic Services, Makashule Gana.

THE DA in the Northern Cape believes that the provincial Department of Health is on the verge of a collapse, stating that a shortage of staff, misappropriation of funds and a lack of resources are at the helm of the problem.

DA provincial leader, Andrew Louw, during a media briefing in front of the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley on Friday, said the department needed drastic intervention to stay afloat.

Louw said the department has spent more on legal claims than it has on services required by communities.

“The auditor-general painted a damning picture. At the end of the 2017/18 financial year, the department experienced a budgetary shortfall of half a billion rand. At the same time, the total legal claims of R1.844 billion against the department by far exceeds what is left of the budget of R1.755 billion that is left for service delivery, after taking away compensation of employees and transfers and subsidies from the total allocation. In effect, this means that if the department was to lose all the legal claims against it, the payouts of the legal claims will leave the department with no money for actual service delivery. In this way, the department has transformed itself from the Department of Health into the Department of Litigation,” said Louw.

“Given that that the department has outsourced at least 47 legal claims to a private law firm, with each claim valued at more than
R10 million, the department could soon be spending more on advocate and attorney fees than what it is spending on its own doctors and nurses. This is ridiculous.”

Louw added that many health facilities in the Province face a dire shortage of staff.

“The Robert Sobukwe Hospital used to have 1 000 nurses. Now, health services extend into the additional old Curomed facility as well, which has additional floor space and additional operating theatres, and yet the hospital only has 450 nurses. Given this same type of under-staffing across the Province, it is then no surprise that the quality of care has declined under an overburdened workforce.

“The department is short of 91 ambulances. It has only 93 operational ambulances as opposed to a target of 184. Once again, it is no surprise that the quality of care has declined under an under-equipped health service. There are non-operational theatres in at least three district hospitals, including Manne Dipico, Kakamas and Postmasburg, while the theatre at Prof Zk Matthews is not working due to no surgical sundries and Hartswater hospital, for which an anaesthetic machine was recently procured, has no skilled doctors to perform Caesarean sections. Once again, it is no surprise that the maternal mortality rate remains too high and that there are a high number of medico-legal cases relating to cerebral palsy, as a direct result of a lack of accessible health care services for mothers in labour,” Louw said.

The spokesperson for the Provincial Department of Health, Lebogang Mahaja, said that Louw was “showing signs of desperation by using the department in his political campaign”.

“It is clear that his intention is to continue misleading the public for sympathy. It is incorrect that the Department of Health is facing
R1.8 billion in medico-legal claims. Our records show that we have active civil litigation amounting to R1.2 billion. The cases are active in court and it will not be correct to comment on how many have been declined or paid until the court processes have been concluded and some of the cases may be settled out of court.

“Most of the cases that are currently on our books relate to incidents that occurred several years ago. The department has since established clinical governance structures in our facilities to ensure that there is adherence to health care protocols.”

Mahaja added that the provision of adequate staffing at facilities remains a priority for the department.

“The vacancy rate for professional nurses currently stands at 7% and the MEC remains committed towards training and recruiting more nurses to ensure full staff complements at health facilities. In July this year, we had an intake of 90 nursing students.

“The MEC also committed to increase the number of emergency medical vehicles and personnel to ensure that the two-person crew is realised.

“The MEC maintains an open-door policy to any health stakeholder in the Province and we wish to encourage Mr Louw not to be afraid of being seen to be engaging the MEC in person on matters relating to health in the Province.”