by Andrew Louw – DA Northern Cape Premier Candidate
Error! Filename not specified.
Date: 23 November 2018
Note to Editors: The following is an extract from a speech presented to the media by Andrew Louw MPL at a press briefing with the DA’s Team One SA Spokesperson for Service Delivery, Makashule Gana, outside the Northern Cape Health Department in Kimberley today. Find attached voiceclips from Louw here and Gana here
As we stand in front of the Northern Cape Department of Health and the Robert Mangaliso Hospital today, we are faced with a very grim reality.
Not only is the state of government health care in the Northern Cape at an all time low but we are also faced with a situation whereby the financial viability of this department is increasingly uncertain.
Image removed by sender.
During the department’s Annual Report presentation to the legislature a few weeks ago, the Health HOD, Steven Jonkers, reiterated his sentiments that, given this department’s financial state, coupled with the burden of disease in this province, this department could in fact come to a standstill.
This scary prospect was confirmed this week by the country’s Auditor General, Kimi Makwetu, who also expressed concern about the poor state of the provincial health departments in the Free State, the Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape, warning that they could collapse because they are running on a deficit.
Worryingly, the failing ANC is refusing to acknowledge this very dire health forecast.
The Auditor General himself, paints a damning picture. At the end of the 2017/2018 financial year, the department experienced a budgetary shortfall of half a billion rand.
At the same time, the total legal claims of R1,844 billion against the department by far exceed what is left of the budget of R1,755 billion that is left for service delivery, after taking away compensation of employees and transfers and subsidies from the total allocation. In effect, this means that if the department was to lose all the legal claims against it, the pay outs of the legal claims will leave the department with no money for actual service delivery.
In this way, the department has transformed itself from the Department of Health into the Department of Litigation.
Given that that the department has outsourced at least 47 legal claims to a private law firm, with each claim valued at more than R10 million, the department could soon be spending more on advocate and attorney fees than what it is spending on its own doctors and nurses. This is ridiculous.
It is in this context that the DA fails to understand how Health MEC, Fufe Makatong could recently come out so strongly to deny that her department is in disarray.
Deep down, I know she is also panicking and is desperately seeking an urgent intervention from Premier Sylvia Lucas with regards to removing the current HOD, whom she accuses of hampering operations.
Premier Sylvia Lucas on the other hand is treating this red flag so casually that she seems oblivious to the impending health crisis in the province and is failing give direction and do anything of significance to mitigate the situation.
So where does this leave the people of the Northern Cape?
This is a looming disaster when you consider that close to 84% of the Northern Cape population, or approximately 959 000 people in the Northern Cape alone, are dependent on health care from this department.
If this department folds, these people will be left in the lurch. They will be left with no medical assistance, with no emergency services, with no medication for their chronic conditions. In effect, they will be left with no hope for a healthier tomorrow.
The cracks are already starting to show.
The Robert Sobukwe Hospital used to have 1000 nurses. Now, health services extend into the additional old Curomed facility as well, that has additional floor space and additional operating theatres and yet the hospital only has 450 nurses. Given this same type understaffing across the province, it is then no surprise that the quality of care has declined under an overburdened workforce.
Also let us look at our emergency services. The department is short of 91 mbulances. It has only 93 operational ambulances as opposed to a target of 184. Once again, it is no surprise that the quality of care has declined under an under-equipped health service.
Yet another example is that there are non-operational theatres in at least three districts hospitals, including Manne Dipico, Kakamas and Postmasburg, while the theatre at Prof Zk Matthews is not working due to no surgical sundries and Hartswater hospital, for which an anaesthetic machine was recently procured, has no skilled doctors to perform caesarean sections. Once again, it is no surprise that the maternal mortality rate remains too high and that there are a high number of medico-legal cases relating to cerebral palsy, as a direct result of accessible health care services to mothers in labour.
I could go on and on but I think you get the message – there is no doubt that this a department in serious trouble.
This is a department plagued by over a decade of mismanagement. This is a department, that despite all the guidelines available, still contravenes every procurement regulation in the book and fails to divert money to where it is most needed, namely health care.
Its crunch time and the urgency and magnitude of the reforms and decisions that need to be taken to retain health care operations, cannot be understated.
Drastic interventions are needed now. Unfortunately, however, it is highly unlikely that this department will be able to self-correct under a captured and factional ANC government.
Only change under a DA-led government will serve to turn around the destitute Health Department, to ensure that accessibility of health services to the province’s sock and vulnerable.