EC HEALTH BUDGET: INFRASTRUCTURE SLASHED BY R577 MILLION

In contrast to the MEC for Finance, Phumulo Masualle, the MEC for Health, Sicelo Gqobana, played open cards with the legislature when he revealed the poor financial state of the department’s finances, along with his very frank disclosures in relation to the pitiful state of health care in the province when he delivered his policy- and budget speech yesterday in the legislature.

Given the unacceptable condition of health infrastructure in the province it is of deep concern that the infrastructure programme has been cut by R577 million. This has implications for the maintenance of facilities and equipment.

All too recently we were reminded of the tragic consequences of equipment failures and -shortages in relation to the baby deaths at Cecilia Makiwane- and Frere Hospitals.

The department is also likely to exceed the new budget by R978 million. This also includes accruals from the 2010/11 year.

The real tragedy with the state of the department’s finances is two-fold: Firstly, R800 million has been lost to corruption and secondly, R981 million was underspent on conditional grants and infrastructural underspending. The money is there, but on the one hand it is being stolen and on the other hand it is being mismanaged.

This is directly as a result of poor controls and management. The MEC in his policy speech spoke about the winds of change that are going to sweep the department of health. Unless those accountable for this ongoing mismanagement are brought to book and fired, the winds of change will simply amount to hot air.

Whereas we welcome Gqobana’s honesty and frankness, the real test will be whether he can break up the cartel of 12 000 employees out of 47 000 that are trading with their own department.

Without tough action this province will continue to be plagued by baby deaths, shortages of medicines and the inhumane treatment of patients.