Mark Steele, MPP
DA KZN Alternate Spokesperson on Health
I wish to address two issues – professional accountability of health professionals and value for money in departmental contracts.
I receive many complaints from relatives or friends of patients concerning the quality of health care these patients have received. The Department’s Ombudsman investigates complaints diligently and interacts directly with the aggrieved families. He does his best and I am not criticising his work at all. But because of limited resources he is dependent on the information which is supplied to him by the relevant hospital authorities. When this House discussed the Health Amendment Bill, which proposed a national Ombuds office I raised the whole question of the independence and resources of the Ombud. This is exactly the problem – the Ombudsman here in KZN has no independent budget and no investigative capacity to conduct his own investigations.
Then we have 165 cases of medical negligence plus reports of moonlighting by both nurses and doctors in the employ of the department. Clearly the department can do only so much to police the work and decision making of its professional staff and we hold hospital CEOs accountable for much of that oversight. But the professional bodies and especially the Health Professions Council of SA also have a direct role to play in disciplining and where necessary striking off doctors or nurses who exploit their positions for personal gain or who neglect patients in their care.
The Portfolio Committee for Health needs to meet urgently with both the Ombudsman and representatives of the HPCSA to establish how we can together work towards ensuring greater professional accountability by staff in our hospitals.
I also have an issue relating to value for money in contracts. The MEC told this House some 18 months ago that he was trying to get the Trizon Towers contract cancelled. The MEC confirmed in April that Trizon will cost the department R16.924 million this financial year, which works out at a monthly rental of R1.4 million. Now I don’t know the exact size of the building but I can count the number of floors and estimate the dimensions and I believe the area in question is about 14 or 15 000 square metres. Assuming the larger size, the monthly rent works out at about R94 per square metre. The problem is that the going rate for A- grade properties in the CBD in PMB (i.e. with on-site parking) is about R65 – R85 per square metre according to experts.
This means the Department is paying at least R10 a square metre too much per month, or R150 000 per month in total. Furthermore, there are currently 225 officials using this office space. That works out at about 67 square metres per official – bigger than an RDP house! I would urge the MEC to address this problem with renewed urgency.