As we head into the festive season, more than forty hospitals across the Eastern Cape are unable to adequately feed patients who are spending their holidays away from their loved ones, but Eastern Cape Premier, Oscar Mabuyane, has publicly stated that the Department of Health is not in crisis.
Service providers have gone unpaid for months, medical devices required for surgeries cannot be procured, mental health patients across the province cannot access the care they require, and there is still no emergency aeromedical service at all in the province, but the Premier says there is no crisis.
This is a clear indication that the Premier is completely out of touch with the realities faced by our health facilities and our health care workers on the ground.
We need to acknowledge the problem and take drastic action to fix it.
The fact that there is no operational budget left to provide food for patients in more than forty hospitals is a massive crisis. If the Gift of the Givers had not brought relief in the form of basic foodstuffs to these hospitals, patients could have starved.
Successful medico-legal claims against the department have depleted budgets across all programmes in the Health Department and they are now unable to fulfil their mandates or pay their bills.
The fact that contingent liability against the Department of Health now stands at a whopping R38 Billion and the Premier, his corrupt advisors, and the Health Department are incapable of fixing the mess, is a crisis.
The Department has approached the courts with the hope that a public health defence application will be approved, which will mean that they will have to care for cerebral palsied patients throughout their lifetime, as opposed to paying out massive medico-legal lump-sum settlements.
However, if this application fails, the Department will need to devise other strategies to deal with medico-legal claims.
Three key steps that will go some way to help fix the Health Department are:
- Engage with Treasury and devise a way of setting funds aside to fund successful claims. This would at least safeguard the operational budgets of hospitals, which would then not have to depend on handouts to feed patients.
- Dramatically reduce the number of millionaire managers in the Department, who do nothing but push paper all day. These funds could be much better spent on filling critical vacant posts on the frontlines.
- Hand all building and infrastructure functions back to Public Works. This programme consistently spends millions of Rands irregularly and is nothing but an employment agency for corrupt cadres.
I will once again write to the MEC for Health, Nomakosazana Meth, to outline these steps which, if implemented effectively, would bring financial relief to the Department and pull it back from teetering on the brink of collapse.
It would set the Department, and the province, on a new path, away from failure and dysfunctionality, towards one of hope and rising opportunity for all.