Shortages of non-clinical staff at Livingstone threaten Infection Prevention and Control

Shortages of non-clinical staff at Livingstone threaten Infection Prevention and Control

Livingstone Hospital is buckling under the shortage of non-clinical staff, who play a critical role in providing essential hospital services. Cleaners, in particular, play an essential role in keeping wards, floors and bathrooms clean and sterile, which in turn assists to prevent the spread of infection.

According to a Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) circular (circular 49), all vacant non-clinical posts have been frozen. This is a national cost-cutting mechanism which will impact very negatively on the Eastern Cape Department of Health, which is already reeling from excessive medico-legal claims against it.

I will once again write to both Provincial and National Treasury to urgently request that they reconsider ring-fencing funds to settle the accruals of the embattled Eastern Cape Department of Health, for two reasons: the institutionalised freezing of posts will undoubtedly impact negatively on the quality of care at our hospitals, and this is very likely to result in further medico-legal claims against the department.

The freezing of such posts will also backfire if infections result in patients having to stay in hospitals longer. Livingstone Hospital is already over-prescribed, with a Bed Utilisation Rate (BUR) in excess of 80% when it should be 75%. The Orthopaedic department is even more stretched with a BUR of between 95 and 100%.

Doctors, specialists and nurses simply do not have the time to undertake the cleaning of wards, theatres and bathrooms. Furthermore, the hospital will run out of Goods and Services budget within the first four to five months of the year, so payment of other soft services will stop, resulting in even more accruals against both the hospital and the department.

The longer government delays settling the accruals of the Eastern Cape Department of Health, the more they expose this department to the threat of further medico-legal claims and the further finances will spiral out of control.

Good governance starts with good financial management and if this provincial government cannot get the basics right, then it’s time to vote them out and vote for the Democratic Alliance, the only party that can rescue our health system from further abuse.