A year later and the Eastern Cape Department of Health has still not paid a service provider who supplied critical, life-saving implants for paediatric cardiology patients at the Provincial Hospital.
When the Department doesn’t pay, it’s not just the suppliers and their employees who suffer. It is also the patients as companies become reluctant to provide further goods and services at the risk of incurring worse debt.
Health MEC Nomakosazana Meth revealed that in August the Department still owed suppliers to Livingstone Hospital more than R178 million, which included fees owing to this particular service provider, but gave a firm commitment that these suppliers would be paid by the end of August.
This never happened.
During a sitting of the Eastern Cape Legislature last month, MEC Meth was again asked about the late payments, as the supplier had still not been paid. She quickly changed her stance, saying that the Department was still verifying and reconciling invoices, after which the payment would be affected within 30 days.
The service provider has however still not even been issued an order number.
The government has made it clear that Public Private Partnerships must be strengthened to enhance service delivery.
However, it seems the opposite is happening in the Eastern Cape Health sector, where the private sector is expected to absorb losses for months or even years on end but still expected to assist when necessary.
This is not the way to enhance operations between the two sectors. The Department of Health needs to get its priorities right.
Instead of paying salaries to doctors and nurses who sit at the empty Orsmond Hospital or paying unqualified Assistant Directors to work in a Centre of Excellence, which does not exist, these monies should be ringfenced to pay debts.
I will write to the MEC to request a full explanation as to this appalling treatment of suppliers, particularly the small and medium suppliers who cannot afford to absorb or carry such debt.
The DA will continue to fight for the settlement of all outstanding debts to suppliers and service providers, as they play an integral part in improving the quality of care that the Department offers to patients.