Health HOD’s resignation no surprise

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Health

The announcement this afternoon by Premier Oscar Mabuyane that the Department of Health’s Head of Department, Dr Thobile Mbengashe, has resigned should come as no surprise.

The Democratic Alliance has repeatedly called for the Premier to remove Mbengashe as the HOD.

The current Coronavirus pandemic has revealed the severe shortcomings and systemic lack of management of the Eastern Cape Health Department, which is on the brink of collapse.

This collapse has happened under Mbengashe’s watch. Over the past eight years that he has been at the helm, the department has:

  • Accumulated contingent liabilities of R29 billion, mostly due to medico-legal claims against the department;
  • Hundreds of vacant funded posts that have remained unfilled. Funds meant for these salaried posts are instead channelled to pay medico-legal claims;
  • Chronic understaffing resulting from funded posts not being filled, which has left healthcare workers stretched beyond their limits. This has also resulted in reduced care of patients resulting in further claims against the department;
  • Allowed a once effective EMS service to splutter to an almost complete halt through centralisation, chronic understaffing and continued shortages of appropriate EMS vehicles

Dr Mbengashe has also abused his position of authority to place cadres and friends in senior positions within the department that they are not qualified to hold and whose performance has left a legacy of incompetence and institutional incapacity across the province.

Dr Mbengashe’s resignation is a clear indication that the department is taking on water and sinking fast.

The Premier has announced that Dr Mbengashe will join his office in an advisory capacity. This move breathes life into the adage the one should keep one’s friends close, but one’s enemies closer.

The first piece of advice Dr Mbengashe should give the Premier is that he should remove the MEC for Health, Sindiswa Gomba, and replace her with somebody that has the requisite capacity for the job.

I will be presenting a Member’s Statement at tomorrow’s sitting in which I will reiterate the reasons why Health MEC Gomba should be removed from office.

Her appointment shows us all that political patronage is far more important to the Premier than any concerns for the health of the people of the Eastern Cape.