THE Eastern Cape provincial department of health has rejected calls to have it put under national administration.

Last week, the health portfolio committee recommended the department be placed under state administration because it needed intervention to run its affairs.

“We respect the committee’s decision, but we have analysed the situation and we don’t think we need national intervention,” health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said.

“A lot has been done already under the current leadership of the department. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Kupelo was reacting to a letter by committee chairman Mxolisi Dimaza. It was addressed to Speaker Fikile Xasa, and recommended the national government provide human resources and financial support to the department.

Dimaza said the call was made as a result of continuous poor audits and reports of deaths – that could have been prevented – at some of the province’s hospitals.

Kupelo said: “The MEC [Sicelo Gqobana] has already asked the premier [Noxolo Kiviet] to intervene in human resources and finance, and she has seconded two senior officials to assist the department.”

A senior official had been employed in supply-chain management as a senior general manager and another as a deputy director to take charge of human resources, he said.

Kupelo denied the department had received poor audits from the auditor-general (AG), saying the situation had improved drastically over the years.

The department had moved from a disclaimer to getting improved audit results from the AG, he said.

A lack of funds and resources was the main problem facing the department, Kupelo said, adding it was a national problem and not unique to the Eastern Cape.

“Despite the limited resources we have done well to provide primary health care and emergency services to the majority of the province’s rural population. It was almost non-existent before,” Kupelo said.

“The department had also made progress in fighting corruption and fraud, with a number of senior officials being fired,” the spokesman said.

Kupelo said the department had also started the process of getting rid of hospital managers with no health qualifications.

“We need doctors and nurses with sound managerial experience to run our hospitals,” he said.

“We have also revised our terms and conditions with governmentfunded student nurses who now have to work in the province for a certain number of years before they may leave to other provinces.”

If a student was funded by the department for five years, they have to work in the province for five years for the department to benefit from its investment.

The opposition DA has described the portfolio committee’s call as a “cop out” or “passing on the buck”.

In statement released on Sunday, DA MPL John Cupido said stronger internal measures needed to be attempted before such a “complex solution” was taken.

“The national intervention recommended by the committee chairperson is a complicated process that will bring in officials and expensive consultants that will immediately be black-balled and blocked by existing officials protecting their own interests and those of their buddies around them,” said Cupido.

COPE spokesman on health, Nkosinathi Kuluta, said the party supported the call by the portfolio committee, because the department was so dysfunctional that it was “beyond repairs”.

The health department’s senior management – up to the level of the head of department (HOD) were not serious about turning things around, Kuluta said.

“The fight between the HOD and the MEC has really cost that department.

“You cannot keep two bulls in one kraal,” Kuluta said.

“We have called on the premier to separate them . . . but nothing seems to have been done,” Kuluta said.