HR Havoc in EC Health

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Health

Despite plans, commitments and promises to the contrary, Eastern Cape Health Department leadership has failed to finalise an affordable staff organogram, failed to fill critical frontline posts, failed to renew essential contracts, failed to fill the thousands of still vacant Emergency Medical Services (EMS) posts and failed to address the mental health crisis in the province.

The Democratic Alliance has been calling for the Department to be placed under administration, but the ANC-led provincial executive refuses, promising reforms but these have continuously failed to materialise.

Instead, these failures continue to be seen and felt in every health facility across the Eastern Cape. Staff shortages have left the medical workforce demotivated and exhausted. Many frontline workers are in limbo, not knowing whether their contracts will be renewed. Ambulance crews are so depleted that they cannot perform their duties efficiently.

Mental health patients are stranded in the district and regional hospitals because mental health facilities are either full or mismanaged. In eKomani, two male general wards have been completely vandalised by mental health patients who should either have been discharged or referred to a mental health facility after the obligatory 72-hour observation period. Meanwhile, the Komani Mental Health Hospital is clearing out wards to make space for Education Department Offices.

This is scandalous!

Rural stipends get paid to those who have the right connections in senior management, while thousands of enrolled nurses, enrolled nurse assistants and even senior staff in rural areas are ignored.

This is scandalous!

Approximately 7 500 health department employees are unverified, which means these are ghost posts. So where have these salaries been going, and who will be held to account? How many doctors, nurses and paramedics could have been gainfully employed with this money?

This is scandalous!

I will write to the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Paahla, and request that he urgently conduct several unannounced oversight visits to facilities across the province. The minister must come and see for himself the severe conditions under which our frontline workers have to perform, because the provincial organisational structure is a poorly managed and unfunded shambles.

I shall also write to Premier Oscar Mabuyane to urge him to reconsider the ill-devised plan of not filling critical posts to save money to deal with medico-legal claims. These are false savings, as the reduced capacity of facilities to render effective health services results in further claims against the Department.

Furthermore, non-medical administrative posts for pals must be dramatically reduced to reduce the wage bill and stabilise cash flow. Ghost posts must be traced, and those found guilty of pocketing these salaries must be criminally charged.

For too long we have heard the talk of plans to improve health service delivery. Talk is cheap. These plans should have been actioned with a sense of urgency to save the Department from imminent collapse.

The DA will continue to advocate that placing the Department under administration is the most sensible way to get the ball rolling.

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