Mpumalanga premier is not being honest over the state of health care

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition

Yesterday Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza attempted to paint a rosy picture of state of health care in the province, saying that turnaround strategies have been put in place and that certain key issues have been addressed.

During his questions for oral reply session in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature, premier Mabuza informed the house that these interventions, which he committed his government to during his State of the Province Address, were on track.

However, while health MEC Candith Mashego Dlamini and her department aligned their objectives and budget to coincide with the premier’s promises, the department’s Annual Performance Plan paints an entirely different picture:

  • The appointment of suitably qualified CEOs in all hospitals by the end of April: It is now four months after the deadline and the department is still in the process of appointing CEOs for six hospitals.
  • Decentralisation of management and decision-making to CEOs of hospitals, with district oversight: The department employed 72 Public Health Care managers, tasked with cost centre accounting, who are not suitably qualified and require further training. Furthermore, two districts are without managers.
  • Completion of all minor infrastructure repairs and establishment of maintenance teams at all hospitals: While some rush repairs to critical problems were carried out in certain hospitals, the department’s first quarter report reveals that it was supposed to establish 50 maintenance teams, but delays in the recruitment process has resulted in not a single team being recruited or appointed.

So while the premier tries to convince the public that all is well in the health sector and will only get better, patients in Rob Ferreira hospital are still treated in the corridors, patients at the Ermelo Hospital are “advised” to bring their own food, and Tintswalo Hospital teeters on the verge of collapse.

During the State of the Province Address the premier made it abundantly clear that public health care in Mpumalanga has reached a point of no return, and that these challenges needed to be tackled head-on.

However, tackling such challenges requires dedication, commitment, strong leadership and the willingness to make unpopular decisions – and the DA has yet to see the premier, MEC Mashego-Dlamini or HOD Richard Mnisi display such qualities.

The premier should rather explain his intentions over MEC Mashego-Dlamini’s failure to meet his promises. Will he redeploy her as he did her predecessor, or will he change the entire top structure like he did with the Department of Human Settlement?

Premier Mabuza must act, and the time to act is now.