The financial woes of the beleaguered Eastern Cape Department of Health and its latest plan to request a bail-out of R1, 7 billion from the provincial executive refers.

The Democratic Alliance warned the house during sitting in December that the department would run into more difficulties early in the new financial year due to payments of some R700 million for Occupational Specific Dispensation (OSD), back-pay in terms of the HROPT and outstanding accruals from the previous year. The cash crunch in the department has caused problems which affects the poorest, who cannot afford private medical care, like clinics running short of the most basic supplies like headache tablets. Late transfers to provincial hospitals have been causing practical difficulties such as a shortage of food for patients and telephones being cut. Sadly some entrepreneurs have been so badly affected by late- and non-payments by the department that they have closed their businesses.

For this reason the DA did not support the provincial budget that was passed in June, because it was clear that the figures had no integrity.

If any funding is given to the department, that money must be ring-fenced for the basics such as food and enough medical supplies. If this is not done the ripple effect can only become more severe. For instance if a TB patient skips his medication, chances are that he will develop drug resistant TB, which comes with its own set of problems and additional costs.

Under no circumstances must the money be used for new ventures by the department. Get the basic rights and put people first.

This department can learn from the success of the Soccer World Cup: the success of the event was thanks to the right people being appointed to do the right tasks. These people were able and competent to make decisions and deliver on time. That is what we need in the Department of Health in the Eastern Cape.

Pine Pienaar

DA spokesperson for Health

Bhisho Legislature