Free State Health needs urgent turnaround strategy

Mariette Pittaway, MPL

Free State Provincial Legislature

The crisis in the provincial Department of Health continues to worsen. Medical professionals employed within the public health sector in the province are increasingly coming forward with horror stories about financial and human resources mismanagement, understaffing, medicine and medical equipment shortages, poor and non-existent catering services, long waiting lists for medical procedures and a general apathy towards the deteriorating situation within Free State public health by both Premier Magashule and MEC Malakoane.

The spokesperson for Premier Magashule and MEC Malakoane, Mondli Mvambi, maintains that all is well within the province’s public health sector and that the media and disgruntled medical professionals are involved in a plot to discredit the government. This is nothing but a persistent agenda of denial driven by a government that has lost touch with reality.

The DA has been concerned about the state of public health in the Free State for some time. The department is currently experiencing financial difficulties due to mismanagement. The department entered the current financial year with a R700 million shortfall. This negatively affects the department’s ability to meet its financial obligations, especially with respect to the payment of salaries, the supply of medicine, medical equipment and food.

Various public health facilities remain understaffed and lack competent and qualified management to effectively manage these institutions. The DA has repeatedly called in committee on the department to present a plan to address critical staff shortages and implement an effective recruitment and retention programme, to no avail.

It is our view that MEC Benny Malakoane is not fit to head the Department of Health.

Since MEC Malakoane’s appointment last term, health services across the Free State have deteriorated. In addition, MEC Malakoane is currently out on bail, facing charges for his alleged involvement in tender irregularities during his tenure as Municipal Manager of Matjhabeng.

The DA has repeatedly called on Premier Ace Magashule to fire MEC Malakoane and to appoint a competent and capable individual  that would see the turnaround of the department. Reappointing Malakoane as MEC for Health in the fifth administration is an indication that Premier Magashule is not at all bothered about the state of health of the Free State population.

The DA does not have any confidence in MEC Malakoane’s abilities to turn the department around.

The DA will raise the numerous concerns on health in the provincial portfolio committee at the very first sitting. We will hand over to the chairperson of the committee a docket containing information highlighting problems identified at various medical facilities during our oversight visits and will request the committee to compel MEC Malakoane to appear before the committee and to table the department’s turnaround strategy.