DA cannot support Gauteng Health Budget when so much more needs to be done

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Health Spokesman

Summary extract of speech on the health budget on 31 May 2013

The DA unfortunately cannot support the Gauteng health  budget while there is still so much to be done to serve the health needs of this province.

I do acknowledge that the department has the best MEC that it has ever had. Hope Papo is admirably conscientious and utterly sincere in trying to get things right in  this troubled department.

I feel sorry for him because he inherited a big mess and there are so many things outside his control.

I am concerned by the decreased budget for transfers to NGOs and to local government health services.

Whereas R947 million was paid to NGOs last year, the budget this year is only R741 million. R946 million was paid to local governments, but the budget this year is R647 million.

This is a huge gap that will definitely hit services in these areas.

The four academic hospitals are also under pressure as they have been allocated R9.27 billion whereas R9.76 billion was spent by them last year.

Goods and services are also tight, as R7.93 billion is budgeted whereas R8.33 billion was spent last year.

But I still get complaints from companies that they are owed money for months and even years.

Companies have stopped supplies in certain instances because of non-payment.

This is why food ran out recently at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and patients had to pay for bread and toilet paper at Tembisa hospital.

Compared to previous years the overall budget is actually up significantly – it is 50% higher than four years ago.

The key issue is effective and efficient spending which is where I still have many doubts.

Emergency services are still a disaster. The Johannesburg Metro should have been called to order for refusing to provide response time figures, no doubt because they are so miserable.

The provincial estimate is that about 54% of priority 1 calls are responded to within 15 minutes.

The international standard is 80%, but our official target for the next three years is only 70 percent. So officially we are aiming for a sub-standard emergency service for the next three years.

The supply of essential medicine is also way below what it should be – around 70% due to the mess at the Auckland Park Medical Depot.

There is a complete inability to build anything without spending over-runs, avoidable design changes and delays.

The rot in procurement goes very deep indeed. We get poor value in all sorts of things, including hospital security and servicing of machines.

We retain five poorly functioning and expensive laundries, but it’s not the core business of this department to run laundries when there are plenty of private laundries conveniently close to hospitals all around the province.

It’s really shameful that male patients at the George Mukhari Hospital were given nighties to wear because of a shortage of laundered pyjamas.

The Folateng private wards should be shut down as soon as possible. They lose about R40 million a year, excluding the cost of capital.

I estimate that about R1 billion has been lost since Folateng started 10 years ago. Instead of bringing in revenue from patients to assist public patients, it has actually drained resources away from the public sector.

The department must realise that it has no expertise in running a private hospital, but that partnerships with the private health sector can be very fruitful.

Something needs to be done urgently to cut down the long waiting lists and waiting times for operations. More than 10 000 people are waiting for operations in Gauteng hospitals.

I really hope that the era of delayed operations due to broken machines and missing linen is over.

The sins of the past in this department weigh heavily on the present.

I remember when Amos Masondo was the first Health MEC and he spoke about computerisation and a health information system.

There have been umpteen false starts in this area, and all failed because of corruption and incompetence.

Paper files cause delays and are notorious for getting lost.

A health information system is an absolute necessity to enable proper budgeting and controls.

Without it, you don’t know your real costs and where money can be most productively spent.

I hope that real progress in this and other areas can be reported on when the next budget is tabled.

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