Speech notes: Recruitment by the Eastern Cape department of Health during the COVID-19 pandemic [Seconder]

Issued by Retief Odendaal, MPL
Member of the Health Portfolio Committee

The following speech was delivered by Retief Odendaal, MPL in response to a motion tabled by DA EC MPL and Shadow MEC for Health, Jane Cowley .

Speaker, I want to start off by congratulating the former HOD for Health Dr Mbengashe with his new appointment as strategic adviser to the Premier. That said, I also want to thank the Premier on behalf of many elated officials in the Department of Health in making this strategic appointment.

Our loss in the Department of Health is certainly the gain of the Office of the Premier.

Speaker in supporting the Hon Cowley I firstly wish to thank all the thousands of Health Care workers in the Department of Health for their selfless service during the worst pandemic of our times. It will surely be impossible for us to comprehend the many personal sacrifices that these workers have made and continue to make on a daily basis amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaker, although we can use words to express our appreciation for the work done by our healthcare officials, our decisive actions could actually make a tangible difference in their daily lives.

I am sure that there is not a single member within this house that do not agree that we have serious administrative and financial issues within the Department of Health. This house has spoken ad-nauseum about these problems and, to date, we have been unable to find solutions in order to put the department back on track.

By her own admission, the Hon MEC Gomba, admitted that the department is factually bankrupt. In this regard I can’t help feeling sorry for the MEC because it must be very difficult to endeavour to turn around a defunct department that is bankrupt.

The total contingent liabilities in respect of medico-legal claims is now sitting at over R29 Billion which is significantly more than the departments total budget for the financial year at hand.
Just the top twenty medico-legal claims that were successful in the 2019/20 financial year cost this department R190 million.

Is it any wonder then that the department has ever-increasing accruals and payables? Is it any wonder then that the creditors of the Department of Health sometimes have to wait for more than 90 days before their accounts are settled?

Speaker, we, the members of this house, are actually part of the problem. Every year we adopt a budget in this house that we know is not a credible budget insofar the department of Health is concerned. We know the department is underfunded, but still, we vote in favour of a budget that is playing Russian roulette with the lives of the people of the Eastern Cape.

Just this afternoon, we have voted in favour of an Adjustments Appropriation that could have made a meaningful difference to the financial sustainability of the Department of Health. Yet again, we elected to put our heads in the sand and put on the backburner the financial wellbeing of this department and as such, also the wellbeing of our people.

We will never be able to fill all the vacancies in this department and as such turn the fortunes of the department around until we are able to stabilise the finances of this department.

Speaker, the inability of the department to fill its critical vacancies is also the main reason why the department is finding it almost impossible to address the ever-increasing overtime bill.

In response to my Question 17 in IQP 1 earlier this year it came to light that some of the officials in this department has already earned more than R700,000.00 in overtime for the first 9 months of the year. Speaker, this cannot be. This is morally and humanely wrong.

Whilst certain officials may want to work extended hours to supplement their income, allowing health care officials extended hours of overtime for a prolonged time may actually endanger lives.

Deputy Speaker, there is good news, however. Together we can resuscitate the department, stop the bleeding and put it back on the path of recovery. The Democratic Alliance is committed to saving the department of Health. Are you?