DA calls for review of EC Health budget as accruals top R4.7 billion

DA calls for review of EC Health budget as accruals top R4.7 billion

The Democratic Alliance calls for an urgent review of the Eastern Cape Department of Health’s budget, which has been pushed through with no consideration of its disastrous implications for residents in desperate need of healthcare services.

The DA rejected the Budget because it is largely unfunded. What little budget remains, has been directed away from the people of this province, with the Department opting to put cadres first, over the health and wellbeing of the lives entrusted in their care.

Despite the vehement objection from opposition parties, the ANC majority passed the budget in the EC Legislature last week. No solutions were provided to tackle the runaway accruals – money owed to service providers and suppliers from the previous financial year – now at a staggering R4,76 billion. That’s 17% of the entire R28,14 billion departmental budget.

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Of the allocated budget, a paltry 9%, just R2,53 billion, will be available for Goods and Services, which includes the supply of medicines and life-saving medical and surgical equipment to all Eastern Cape hospitals and clinics.

It is unlikely that this amount will last beyond July or mid-August. The Department will then need to once again negotiate with suppliers to, in the words of HOD Rolene Wagner, “continue supplying the services for the sake of the lives of the patients.”

This situation is untenable. How can it be that a department must beg for extended credit to ensure that patients don’t die?

Yet, the same Department squanders hundreds of millions on non-core programmes such as infrastructure and training, which have become feeding troughs for cadres. The infrastructure programme should be transferred to Public Works, and nursing training should move to the tertiary education sector.

Of the R23,38 billion left after accruals are deducted, the Compensation of Employees (CoE) takes up 81% of the remaining budget – a princely sum of R19,02 billion – yet critical medical posts remain vacant.

Salaries are going to cadre-deployed millionaire managers in a bloated administration, while desperately needed frontline staff posts remain vacant, increasing the burden on overworked doctors and nurses.

The Department is mandated to provide adequate health services to all citizens, a right enshrined in our constitution. It is not an employment agency for family and friends.

Medico-legal claims still threaten to completely bankrupt the Department. However, Provincial Treasury has once again failed to ensure that monies are set aside so that payments do not impact the Goods and Services budget.

I have set a parliamentary question to the MEC for Finance, Mlungisi Mvoko, to propose mechanisms to protect the Health Department’s budget from being impacted by continued medico-legal payouts going forward, and to request whether Treasury would not consider assisting the Department over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) to settle their accruals and payables.

The DA is advocating for a self–insurance fund to provide cover for medico-legal claims, which would meet the requirements set out in terms of Section 38 (1) (b) of the Public Finance Management Act. This mechanism would prevent funds from being redirected away from programmes to pay claims.