Nelspruit CHC Hardly Open And Already In Crisis

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition.

The newly opened Nelspruit Community Health Centre (CHC) is heading for a personnel crisis, as nurses’ salaries had not yet been paid since their appointment on August 1, and have to agree to salary reductions before receiving any money.

According to information the DA received, Grade 2 Nurse vacancies at the CHC were advertised and candidates were first interviewed in 2010. With their appointment on 1 August this year, nurses were informed that the salaries would be that of the advertised 2010 scale. Yet since being appointed, many have not received any salary at all, and are facing severe financial difficulties.

Unpaid nurses have since engaged with departmental officials and their trade unions, and the have been informed that they will only be paid if agree to have their salaries reduced significantly. Some agreed but 10 have refused. Furthermore, the Acting Chief Director: Corporate Services circulated a memorandum informing personnel that it would investigate the staff issues, and would “eventually respond to the appointees of Nelspruit CHC not later than 30 September 2012”.

The entire mess that is the Nelspruit CHC needs intervention, and a drastic one. Not just did the department employ only half the recommended personnel, but now it seems that it cannot even pay those who are already on payroll, and supposed to be budgeted for. This while the department already struggles with a with a vacancy rate of 59 % of all funded posts.

Furthermore, media reports last week suggest that the closure of four municipal clinics in the greater Nelspruit area is due to the health department failing to pay the Mbombela municipality the necessary subsidies. The DA has already gone on record about the folly of closing these clinics forcing residents to go to the Nelspruit CHC. This coupled with the non-payment of salaries of nursing staff, spells imminent disaster for primary health care in the area.

MEC for health, Dr Clifford Mkasi will have to intervene, and do so urgently. To this end, the DA will write to him and request him to engage with the Mbombela municipality, and ensure that the four clinics remain open. In our letter we will also inform MEC Mkasi of our intention to report the health department’s non-payment of nurses’ salaries to the Public Service Commission, and that we will ask the PSC to intervene in the matter.

Primary health care to potentially thousands of residents is at risk due to the health department’s incompetency, and the DA will use every constitutional means possible to bring about desperately needed delivery.

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