“DA health spokesman and MPL John Cupido said the health boss should be applauded for his efforts.”

ALMOST 800 employees from the Eastern Cape health department have been fired on various charges during the short 22-month tenure of health boss Dr Siva Pillay.

Though still burdened with a high level of corruption, the department has made significant inroads into stopping the abuse of its finances over the past two fiscal years.

Almost 500 contracts were not renewed with the department during the 22-month period, and a further 68 cases are currently sitting at the appeal stage.

The large-scale clean-up includes terminating the employment of the head of clinical services, the department’s chief financial officer, the deputy director-general of human resources and the head of emergency medical services (EMS). Shortly after the head of EMS was fired, 68 people from the unit were also dismissed.

Before Pillay’s arrival, the department had been plagued by overcrowding in hospitals and clinics, poor environmental and hygiene conditions and shortages of medication.

The department even went bankrupt early last year after facing a R2.8-billion deficit.

The provincial department of health recently moved from a disclaimer to a qualified audit and Pillay said it proved the institution was on the mend.

Asked what the department – which employs 47 000 people – was like before he took over, Pillay said it was a “disaster”.

The health boss said after the first set of investigations into the abuse of the department’s finances, scores of people resigned. “You can only imagine what we would have found if we had the time to investigate each one of them,” he said.

The offences relating to the firing of the 800 people – which amounts to an average of 36 a month – include forgery, misuse of the department’s air-ambulance, theft, fraud and corruption.

“There was even a clerk at Bhisho’s hospital who regularly burnt documents. He has since left the department,” Pillay, a former member of parliament, said.

Senior staff members who failed to undergo the department’s vetting process were also dismissed.

Pillay said the department had also started shifting employees to other jobs – instead of suspending them – while the disciplinary process was under way.

“We have moved away from so-called suspensions … it really does not help anyone if they sit at home, so we give them a job where there is a shortage,” he said.

Giving an example, Pillay said recently a clinic inspector was moved back into the nursing field until the disciplinary process was complete.

Asked if death threats on his life continued, Pillay said it still happened daily.

He said he had made many enemies in the department by targeting corruption.

DA health spokesman and MPL John Cupido said the health boss should be applauded for his efforts. “What he has done is fantastic. It is a positive first step in fixing the department and the DA respects his efforts.” — michaelk@dispatch.co.za