GP Health dept admits R4 billion debt but denies being in financial crisis

The Gauteng department of health claims it is not in a financial crisis, but admitted to owing service providers R4 billion.

Unpaid bills were the reason Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital had no bread supplies for three weeks. But the department claimed there was other food available and there was no need for medical staff and volunteer organisations to arrange food parcels for patients.

Democratic Alliance (DA) provincial spokesperson on health Jack Bloom said the department needed to face the reality that the real crisis was financial mismanagement within the organisation. According to Bloom, the problem was financial negligence in the department and that each budget had to make up for the arrears of the previous year’s.

He said it was appalling that more than 42 000 suppliers have not been paid within the required 32 days, If the department’s budget was spent properly, there would be no unpaid suppliers, he added.

“They are in a financial crisis because of mismanagement, corruption and wastage,” he said “Claiming they are not in financial crises is not credible.

“They are not managing the department efficiently.

“If they were then why aren’t suppliers paid on time.”

However, chief financial operating officer Lerato Madyo, said the department was not in funding crisis mode and funds allocated to health were adequate for the financial year.

“There are other needs that we have, but through our budget bids we present such cases to the provincial Treasury.

“When the cash is available and when we adjust the budget, we will make that R4 billion available and ensure we pay suppliers on time.

“But the balance will not be paid in one month as we would not be able to cover that.

“Of the R59 billion that we have as part of our adjustment budget, we already spent about 80% of that in January.

Bara - Jobs
Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital Clinical Heads and staff picket against the cutting of posts, services and waste removal outside the main hospital gate in Soweto,10 March 2022, 800 nurses and doctors who were contracted during COVID – 19 are to be terminated end of March.Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Some staff protested this week. The hospital’s chief executive, Nkele Lesia, said the protest was not about Covid posts but about staff shortages.

“The protest was about the fact that posts would be terminated as employees were aware that they were contract posts.

“Generally, there is a high unemployment rate so when people have been employed, temporary as it was and knowing very well it would end at some stage, it is natural people would like to be retained.”

Gauteng health MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi reassured patients at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital the bread shortages at the hospital, due to suppliers not being paid on time, had been resolved.

But Mokgethi dismissed the reports that all public hospitals in the province had been affected by the shortages. She confirmed that Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital and a few other facilities did have a short supply of bread for about three weeks, but pointed out that other food items were available.

“There was food in the hospital. “We want to put it out there to our people not to get worried; there is food in this hospital,” she said.

Lesia said that during the bread shortages, the facility had put 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 prefer bread,” Lesia said.

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