Health department fails to deliver on its mandate

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition.

The Department of Health is faced with the possible risk of having its health infrastructure and hospital revitalisation grants being withheld by National Treasury, due to the fact that it consistently underspends on these grants year on year. This poses a serious threat to the future health and well-being of the people of Mpumalanga, especially considering that not one health facility complies to the minimum standards set down by the national health department for the soon to be implemented National Health Insurance.

In an effort to retain its future infrastructure grant, the department established a political task team to work towards “quick-win” projects, aimed at yielding necessary improvements to prevent the grant funding from being taken away from the province. This is in response to the department spending only 37% of its infrastructure grant and 25% of its hospital revitalisation grant up to November 2011.

According to findings made by the Auditor-General (AG) on the department’s infrastructure delivery process, it found that serious mismanagement existed in most infrastructure projects from start to finish. This included poor communication between department, management, local authorities and communities, and in more than half of the projects selected for auditing, the department deviated from the prescribed procurement legislation and regulations.

The AG elaborated on the department’s failures, and mentioned capacity constraints, late payment of service providers, insufficient coordination and liaison between the department and service providers, and ineffective supply chain management as major reasons for poor programme implementation.

The damning findings of the AG coupled with the premier, Mr David Mabuza’s startling admission during his 2012 State of the Province Address that all 33 hospitals and 278 primary health care facilities in Mpumalanga were found to be non-compliant with the national health department’s NHI requirements – shows a department deep in crisis – and completely incapable of delivering health care to the poor.

After numerous calls for intervention, as well as the department being given a new political head in the shape of Dr Clifford Mkasi, very little has changed. The health department needs to be shaken up, starting with proper management practices, planning and execution, coupled with effective performance monitoring.

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