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Sassa grant recipients waiting to see a doctor

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359 grant recipients in the Province are currently on waiting lists to see an assessment doctor.

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A TOTAL of 359 SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) grant recipients in the Northern Cape are currently on waiting lists to see an assessment doctor.

This is according to the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, who was responding to a Parliamentary question by the DA’s Alexandra Abrahams.

Zulu indicated that, nationally, there are a total of 19 000 new and renewed Sassa grant recipients waiting to see a doctor.

In her response, Zulu stated that all clients seeking to apply for disability related grants were booked for an assessment at Sassa local offices using the Electronic Medical Assessment Statistical Template.

“Such clients are booked for an assessment at a particular assessment site on a particular date and there is no differentiation between new and existing beneficiaries. The booking is to assist the agency to monitor service demands and monitor the time it takes for clients before they are assessed.”

Zulu added that Sassa strived to ensure that all clients booked were assessed within a month and clients waiting for more than a month were referred to as backlogs.

“Programme managers are required to come up with innovative measures to address and avoid backlogs.”

She stated, however, that the current numbers had been exacerbated as a result of the lockdown and closure of Sassa local offices under Level 5; as well as the limited resources at local offices during levels 4 and 3.

Referring to the number of assessment doctors that are currently assigned to each province, Zulu stated that Sassa implemented a hybrid model for disability management, which relies on both contracted medical officers as well as medical officers from the Department of Health.

“The number of doctors provided by the Department of Health is not a fixed number – it depends on resources available within the various assessment sites,” she stated.

The total number of doctors contracted directly by Sassa is 475 nationally, while the Northern Cape has 80 doctors.

Responding to questions on how her department and Sassa intended to address the growing backlog, Zulu indicated that all requests for assessments were captured on the Electronic Medical Assessment Template (EMAST) which flags all clients waiting more than 30 days.

“In such situations, programme managers are expected to either add a resource in the form of a doctor, another assessment day within that week or recruit either doctor from other further areas and in certain instances ask for services of doctors from neighbouring provinces.”

Zulu went on to state that the backlog had been exacerbated as a result of the lockdown.

“Limited disability related services at local offices have resumed under Level 3 lockdown. A strategy has been developed to progressively resume with the assessment related activities as from July 1, 2020. The ability to provide these services does depend on the ability for assessments to be undertaken, as there is still limited access to health facilities.”

The strategy prioritises the following categories of applicants in order of priority: Those who were assessed prior to lockdown but who were unable to complete the application process; those who were booked for assessments but could not be seen as a result of the lockdown – these clients will be rebooked for assessments; urgent new applications, where the assessment is already done by the health facility and only the application needs to be done; and new applications in accordance with available capacity of assessing doctors.

The number of assessments booked per assessment schedule has also been reduced to 20 from 40 to ensure compliance with the Covid-19 protocols related to sanitation, social distancing and hygiene.