They made the call after Zulu revealed in her written reply that nearly 20 000 new and renewed Sassa disability grant beneficiaries are currently on waiting lists to see an assessment doctor.
Johannesburg – The Democratic Alliance (DA) has asked Social Development Minister, Lindiwe Zulu, to appoint more doctors to assist with the reduction of the number of people on the waiting list for social grants.
They made the call after Zulu revealed in her written reply that nearly 20 000 new and renewed South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) disability grant beneficiaries are currently on waiting lists to see an assessment doctor. According to Zulu, the Western Cape has the highest number of people on the waiting list – a total of 4 945. The Eastern Cape has 835, Free State 309, Gauteng 2 553, KwaZulu-Natal 1 632, Limpopo 1 664, Mpumalanga 1 165, Northern Cape 359 and the North West 4 574.
She said the total number is 19 053.
“In order to address this, SASSA Western Cape has been granted authority to deviate from normal tender processes by National Treasury to appoint doctors in the George and Boland areas through a closed bidding process by approaching all doctors listed on the HPCSA database as a fairness measure,” Zulu said.
The backlogs in assessments of disability grant cases have been a historic issue within the social grants system, primarily brought on by the shortage of doctors who are contracted by SASSA to do these assessments.
The Minister in her response to the DA’s Alexandra Abrahams admitted that these numbers “have 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”.
“The DA would like to remind the Minister that the reason why these SASSA offices were closed and understaffed was because she refused to open them after repeated calls from the DA.
“Minister Zulu must therefore take full personal responsibility for making an already bad situation even worse due to her arrogance,” Abrahams said.
She said the temporary disability grants will come to an end in October after the six-month grace period implemented as result of the national lockdown and applicants will soon find that their grants have lapsed and their only source of income halted.
“Furthermore, the assessment doctor’s report is only valid for a period of three months, by which SASSA is meant to have processed the application. It has been reported that as a result of SASSA offices being closed during level 5 and 4 of national lockdown many of these assessment reports have lapsed adding to the overburdened system.
“Thousands of desperate and vulnerable South Africans have now been left in limbo as they wait to be assessed in order to access these grants for their survival,” Abrahams said
The DA reiterated its calls for the Department of Social Development (DSD) to urgently increase its efforts to recruit more medical doctors to assess social grant applicants for disability grants.
Abrahams said that would ensure that the number of applicants that need to do assessments does not overwhelm the SASSA-contracted doctors.
“It cannot be that in the Western Cape, where there is a backlog of 4 945 assessments, the DSD has only allocated 10 doctors. Similarly, in the North West where there is a backlog of 4574, there are only 28 doctors.
The total number of doctors contracted directly by SASSA is 475 nationally.
“DSD must assist doctors that are interested in assisting with SASSA medical assessments to be speedily registered as required on Government’s Central Supplier Database without unnecessary hindrances. Deviations to procure services from doctors registered on the HPCSA database must be extended to the North West, which has recently been granted in the Western Cape,” Abrahams said.
She said to many people with disabilities, these grants were vital to their very survival saying it’s their means to procure food for themselves and their families.
“The Minister must act now to address this backlog, so that those under her care will not suffer needlessly,” Abrahams said.