Gauteng Health – the good, the bad, the ugly

Jack Bloom MPL

Caucus Leader

The Annual Report of the Gauteng Health Department reminds me of the phrase “the good, the bad and the ugly”.

The good lies in the huge numbers of people who receive treatment – more than 23 million visits were made to clinics, and 4.4 million patients attended out-patient departments at regional and central hospitals.

Immunisation rates exceed 100%, more than 700 000 people receive life-saving ARV treatment for HIV/Aids, and HIV transmission from mothers to babies has been brought down to 2.4%.

But then there are the bad things. These include the 10 000 patients who wait on long waiting lists for operations.

There are hospitals that run out of water, or the lifts don’t work. Operations get deferred because of all manner of malfunctions.

Sometimes a hospital will run out of something as basic as Panado. Only 76% of essential medicines are available at facilities, as opposed to the 98% target.

Some suppliers are still not paid, so hospitals run out of food or machines break down.

Emergency services are still a scandal. New ambulances are bought, but they don’t seem to be on the roads as the response times remain unacceptably low.

Only 52% of Priority 1 emergency calls are responded to within 15 minutes, as opposed to the 70% target which itself is below the 80% world standard.

And then there is the ugly, the missed opportunities and the sins of the past.

This department faces an astounding potential legal liability of R2.7 billion, mostly medical negligence claims. Last year, there was fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R166 million.

The Folateng private wards lose money, but they still continue.

R484 million is owing to the department by other government departments, mostly from neighbouring provinces. The overall provision for bad debts is R1.1 billion.

We still do not have a computerised health information system despite all the promises of the past, including the health smart card that was announced with great fanfare some years ago.

The corruption rot in this department runs deep, and has still not been rooted out entirely.

There has been progress in instilling budget discipline, but we still have large under-spends and large over-spends.

The Central and Provincial Hospitals overspent by R268 million, but Health Facilities Management underspent by R267 million.

Only 72% of the Hospital Revitalisation Grant was spent, down from 85% spent the previous year. Infrastructure spending declined from 95% to 89%.

And only R8 million out of R31.5 million was spent on piloting the National Health Insurance project.

We still don’t know when the Jabulani and Natalspruit Hospitals will be fully functioning, despite umpteen promises over the years.

I could go on about many other faults that need rectifying.

Only 96 out of 203 targets were achieved, which means a failure rate of 53%.

This is not good enough for the health of our people.

I hope that better progress can be reported in the next Annual Report produced by a DA provincial government.