WORKING for the Eastern Cape department of health is not plain sailing, as a Nelson Mandela Bay Metro medical specialist can attest.

The doctor is one of thousands of departmental employees still owed more than R154-million in salaries, occupation-specific dispensation (OSD) and allowances.

The department revealed yesterday that the figure could be higher as many claims were yet to be submitted.

It blamed delays on some of its own “incompetent” staff members.

Because of the scarce skill she possesses, the specialist, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation, was headhunted from another province in late 2011.

She resigned from her previous employer and relocated, and was over the moon when she began work in the Eastern Cape last March.

But her joy was short-lived as she went without pay for the next seven months. After struggling to make ends meet and surviving on loans from family, friends and banks, she eventually began receiving her salary, but has still not been compensated for the seven months.

She says she is owed close to R300 000 by the department, and although she enjoys helping in the Eastern Cape she is considering moving to Canada.

A hospital in Saudi Arabia had also made her a good offer.

Eastern Cape doctors are owed R26-million in salaries and allowances, while nurses are owed R68million.

Pharmacists at provincial public health institutions are owed over R15-million and other staff such as paramedics, porters, drivers and clerks, are owed just over R45-million by their financially-strained employer.

Health MEC Sicelo Gqobana reported this to the Bhisho Legislature this week. He was responding to a parliamentary question relating to outstanding staff payments by DA MPL John Cupido.

According to Gqobana’s report, the amounts owed include payments for salaries, OSD, leave, overtime, scarce skills allowances, bonuses and danger and housing allowances.

Department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said yesterday the figures had accumulated since 2007, and blamed the delays on slack officials.

“We are frustrated by managers who do not submit documents for claims. The fact that we still owe staff is due to managers and human resources staff who do not do what they have been requested to do.

“Districts were asked in February to submit claims so that a proper calculation could be done and we could arrive at a final figure, but people are not submitting.

“The R154-million is only based on the information that is available at our disposal. The final figure could be more,” said Kupelo.

Kupelo said the department would take action against “defiant and incompetent” employees.

Cupido said yesterday the problem had been going on for years and that some specialist medical personnel had since left the department and the province for greener pastures because of it.

“We continue to lose the best personnel in the field due to this; its plainly unacceptable,” he said.

According to the MEC’s report, the department had budgeted R99.9-million for a 1% pay progression and R48.8-million for the payout of leave gratuities in the 2013-14 financial year. —