The union agreement that will result in over 3 000 health workers receiving R1billion in back pay is a financial bombshell which, if paid, could result in health services imploding in the Eastern Cape.

Last year the department ran out of money and could not pay its suppliers for the last three months of the financial year, resulting in over R700 million in unpaid accounts being carried over from 2008/09 to 2009/10. If a further R1 billion was to the paid out in back pay from the health budget of R11, 3 billion, this would simply cripple health services in the province.

The fact that this issue has dragged on for so many years points to gross and ongoing financial mismanagement. By simply putting one’s head in the sand and not dealing timeously with the matter, the department has compounded a financial crisis.

The DA believes the Portfolio Committee on Finance should be given a full explanation as to the process and the amounts involved. Clearly the province cannot pay this money out in one go and a settlement agreement and national assistance is required.

One must also question whether the department has made adequate provision for the implementation of the Occupation Specific Dispensation, which is supposed to enhance the remuneration and career prospects of public sector health professionals.

The Democratic alliance will be asking a series of questions to the MEC for Health about this matter.

For further information, please contact Bobby Stevenson, MPL on 082 775 3444