Gauteng Health Department denies it’s facing a financial crisis

Gauteng Health Department denies it’s facing a financial crisis

The Gauteng Department of Health has denied that it faces a financial and food supply crisis at the province’s public hospitals, following concerns raised by staff at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital (CHBAH) in Soweto, Johannesburg.

“Honestly speaking, the department is not in a financial crisis, and we must state that openly. The one thing we should take note of, is that funding for health is a key priority for the province,” said the department’s chief financial officer Lerato Madyo.

She was speaking on Friday during a media briefing at CHBAH after the department met with the hospital’s management and stakeholders.

Bread supply

Gauteng Health MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi reassured patients at CHBAH bread supply shortages at the hospital, due to a failure to pay suppliers on time, had been fully resolved.

“We want to allay the fears to our people that have loved ones admitted at Bara Hospital that we know that there have been issues around bread supply, but that issues been since resolved because the service provider did not supply bread due to non-payment,” Mokgethi said.

This followed reports that bread had run out at CHBAH, due to the department’s failure to pay food suppliers on time. Some doctors said they had to dig into their own pockets to buy patients food, including bread and milk.

But Mokgethi dismissed the reports that all hospitals in the province were affected by the shortages.

She only confirmed that CHBAH, and a few other facilities, did experience a short supply of bread for about three weeks, but other food items were available.

“As for other food stuff, there has been food in the hospital. We want to put it out there to our people that don’t get worried; there is food in this hospital,” she said.

The CEO of CHBAH, Dr Nkele Lesia, said during the shortages in the supply of bread, the facility had mitigation strategies in place.

“Maybe the strategies didn’t go far enough. As I’ve said, if you procure bread from petty cash, you can’t get 500 loaves of bread, you get less. But it doesn’t mean there was no alternative; it’s just that our patients preferred bread,” Lesia said.

Covid-19 staff contracts

Staff at CHBAH picketed on Thursday over the termination of posts for temporary Covid-19 employees.

Workers protested outside the facility after the Department of Health decided not to renew the contracts of over 800 critical Covid-19 staff due to budgetary constraints.

The staff – administrative and support staff, allied, clinical, engineering, and nursing personnel – were appointed at the height of the pandemic in 2020 to assist with Gauteng’s Covid-19 response.

Mokgethi said the R1.1 billion set aside for the 2022/2023 financial year, for the retention of some existing staff, was not sufficient to cater for the total cost of the re-appointment of all categories of employees on contract.

However, doctors and nurses at the hospital complained that CHBAH was already understaffed, with the hospital experiencing more pressure from new patients since the fire incident last year at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital.

Security

Basani Baloyi, the department’s deputy director-general for corporate services, said there were security personnel protesting at the hospital and the department’s offices.

Baloyi said the workers were not employed by the department but by one of its former contractors, whom they had grievances.

She said could not intervene on the matter, and as a result, they obtained a court interdict against them.

“They were threatening the security of our infrastructure and that of staff, and they have been blocking employees from accessing the building,” Baloyi said.

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