Newly appointed health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth made the first stop of her planned weekly visits at Dordrecht Hospital recently when she delivered food packages to address the burning food shortages at the institution.
During engagements with stakeholders, it was revealed that suppliers last delivered food for patients at the hospital late last year. Non-payment of service providers by the department and under-quoting by suppliers were some of the reasons cited. Staff members had to source food through donations to manage the problem.
Meth said she had received a message from Chris Hani District Municipality executive mayor Wongama Gela following his recent visit to the hospital. In the message Gela indicated that he had been approached by Sanco for food parcels, stating that management and hospital staff were buying food out of their own pockets. Shortage of doctors, a high vacancy rate, x-ray and a scanner which had been non-functional for a year were raised during his discussions with management and the board. The members also pleaded for the extension of contracts of five temporary healthcare workers which end on March 31.
Health district director Sindiswa Tywabi said food was bought on a six month basis, adding that the department was currently busy with new bids which will be effective as of April 1 for the entire district. She said a demand memo had been sent to the province to explore the option of extending the contracts to three years to avoid such problems.
Meth said the department was currently looking at a R4.4 billion deficit for the new financial year, indicating that it was better to be transparent and share information to avoid being attacked. “R36 billion was budgeted for contingent liabilities and R3.4 billion for medico-legal judgements.” She said the department was also facing a challenge of paying 81% cost on employees, leaving a minimal budget for services. “The best way to approach this thing and grab the bull by the horns is to be realistic. We have a responsibility of ensuring that patients are given food. They cannot come here and starve while they also have to take medication.”
On the issue of healthcare worker contracts set to expire, a statement issued by health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo this week indicated that a technical team will be established to provide recommendations on how to handle the matter.
“There won’t be a week that will pass without me setting foot in facilities. In some cases we will make unannounced visits so that we will experience first-hand the service our people receive, instead of relying on prepared reports. These visits form part of our strategy to ensure we deliver effective and efficient services to the millions of people who rely on our clinics and hospitals,” she said.