Dramatically reduced budget leaves Livingstone Hospital hamstrung

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Health

Dramatic cuts to the operational budget of the Livingstone Hospital have severely hamstrung its ability to provide even basic services, such as clean linen and food, to its patients.

The Democratic Alliance is requesting immediate intervention from the MEC of Health to source additional funding.

These excessive cuts, combined with chronic staff shortages, being forced to take on more patients than it is equipped to handle, and taking on additional responsibilities that should be rolled out at the district level, are crippling healthcare at the hospital.

It, therefore, comes as no surprise that medico-legal claims are skyrocketing against the Department, considering how under-resourced our frontline workers are in the province!

A capable state would ensure that the limited resources available are directed to where they are most needed and would give priority to funding the provision of care to its people, rather than ballooning salaries of bureaucratic officials.

Not so in the Eastern Cape. For example, the operational budget of the Livingstone Hospital has been dramatically reduced from the R502 million requested, to just R332,9 million. Of this, approximately R200 million will be required to settle outstanding accounts to service providers.

The operational budget provided to Livingstone Hospital is the same as that provided to the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha, even though it runs at almost double the capacity.

The hospital’s payroll is capped at R1 billion, but shortages of medical specialists are so severe that the hospital is unable to fulfil its legislative mandate as a training hospital.

Meanwhile, the Department continues to employ a vastly over-bloated administration which, as it has grown, has become less and less capable of administering healthcare services.

The Auditor-General has warned that massive intervention is required to prevent the total collapse of the Department. Medico-legal claims against the department stand at R36,75 billion, which is half the value of the entire provincial budget, across all departments, for this financial year.

The Litigation Unit that was set up in the Premier’s Office to challenge these claims has proven ineffective.

I will write to the MEC for Health to appeal to her to source funding from outside the health budget for Livingstone Hospital and other hospitals to settle accruals to reduce the impact of these on operational budgets.

I shall further request that immediate steps be taken to lift the cap on the hospital payrolls, to allow them to fill critical vacancies. Instead, a cap on bloated Provincial and district administrative payrolls should be enforced.

The DA will continue to fight for our hospitals to be effectively capacitated and financed so that healthcare services remain effective.