Public Protector’s report justifies DA call to place Eastern Cape Health Department under administration

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Health

The Public Protector has found the Eastern Cape Department of Health (ECDoH) to have demonstrated improper conduct in terms of the Constitution, and maladministration in terms of the Public Protector Act, by failing to provide adequate and effective health care services.

The Public Protector revealed this in the first quarterly briefing of the 2021/2022 financial year, released on the 30th of June.

The Public Protector investigated the worsening conditions in hospitals in the province after being alerted to these through media reports.

Acute staff shortages, inadequate physical infrastructure, shortages of vehicles, shortages of medical supplies and inadequate supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are just some of the systemic deficiencies that the Public Protector found in Eastern Cape hospitals.

The Democratic Alliance has repeatedly called for the ECDoH to address the deepening financial crisis caused by medico-legal claims against them. The DA has repeatedly called for the ECDoH to develop a proper and binding Financial Recovery Plan and fill all vacant funded posts as a matter of urgency.

We have also repeatedly called for the infrastructure programme to be removed from the ECDoH and placed back in Public Works, where it belongs. The infrastructure programme performs dismally and has cost the department millions, if not billions, in failed projects.

The Public Protector has outlined some of the remedial steps that the department must take. These include:

  • Construction and renovation of certain buildings
  • Submissions are to be made to the Provincial and National Treasury for assistance in the timely settlement of medico-legal claims to prevent further attachment of assets
  • Recruitment of staff in vacant leadership positions
  • The finalisation of hospital organograms and the recruitment and filling of critical posts

These remedial steps are binding and cannot be ignored without legal consequences. However, Provincial Treasury has so far been unwilling to assist in settling medico-legal claims against the ECDoH, and the ECDoH itself is factually bankrupt.

This begs the question: where will the funding come from to comply with the remedial actions imposed by the Public Protector?

I will once again write to the Acting Minister of Health, to urge her to consider placing the ECDoH under administration in terms of Section 100 (1) (b) (i) of the Constitution. In this way, other provincial departments such as Treasury and Public Works will no longer bear the burden of the Health Department’s financial collapse, which they can ill afford.

Furthermore, the national government can then oversee that all remedial actions imposed by the Public Protector are indeed complied with.

In a failed state such as the Eastern Cape Province, chaos, cadres, and corruption are delivered daily instead of services to the people. The only service delivered is lip service. This is how things come undone.

Only a capable state, such as the DA-led Western Cape, can offer effective healthcare services that save lives instead of destroying them. Where we govern, we get the job done.