NHLS crisis: KZN Health has betrayed the citizens of this province

Makhosazana Mdlalose, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health

The KZN Health department’s ongoing failure to resolve a billing issue with the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) is a massive betrayal, both in terms of leadership and its responsibility to state reliant patients in the province.

Last week, the NHLS advised that it would no longer provide a service to KZN’s health department because the bills have not been paid.  This includes the suspension of specimen collection services, to begin with primary health care clinics and progress to community health centre and specialised hospitals, followed by the suspension of diagnostic pathology services at laboratories supporting district hospitals and finally the regional hospitals, provincial tertiary hospitals and national central hospitals.

The news is dire for patients who rely on the public health system.  Delayed screening means delayed treatment, which in cases such as HIV and cervical cancer can prove fatal.

The DA is appalled that this billing issue has not yet been settled.

In December 2011, the KZN Health Department committed to paying the outstanding R1.06 billion account “in a matter of days”.

In early 2012, KZN Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo advised members of the province’s health portfolio committee that the department had entered arbitration over certain aspects of the bill, which it claimed were inaccurate, but that the situation was under control and the department was making regular payments to the NHLS.

That was more than two years ago.  The question is – what happened?  Why has this matter not been resolved yet?

Recent media reports indicate that the outstanding sum could now be as high as R3 billion.

This entire debacle points to an alarming lack of urgency on the part of KZN’s Health department with officials only acting when faced with NHLS suspending its services.

The DA expects some form of consensus to be reached between the department and NHLS officials.  Payment must be made immediately to avert a health care crisis that will affect thousands of patients.