By Dr Imran Keeka, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Health:
A WRITTEN parliamentary reply to questions by the DA has exposed that the number of critical post vacancies within the KZN Health department has risen by more than 2 000 over the past financial year.
According to the response by KZN Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, there are currently 9 783 critical post vacancies at hospitals and clinics in the province. This is an increase of 2 174 from the 2014/15 figure of 7 609, which in turn saw an increase of 1 859 from the 2013/14 figure of 5 750.
The July 2015 reply further reveals that the following number of vital positions remain vacant;
– EMRS 223
– Medical officer 295
– Nurse Assistant 626
– Nurse professional 1 839
– Nurse Staff 729
– Nursing Manager 259
These figures paint a very worrying picture, from management level to nursing assistants, which can only be impacting negatively on patients.
Of particular concern to the DA are the vacancies for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and dentists. Certainly there is no lack of interest when it comes to working for the DoH with;
– 1 121 applications for 295 medical officer posts
– 14 543 applications for 729 nurse staff posts
– 723 applications for 88 pharmacist assistant posts
– 116 applications for 14 dentist posts
Theoretically, these positions could be filled overnight, alleviating much of the suffering and frustration experienced by patients reliant on state health care.
Added to the province’s woes is the reduced intake of medical registrars being trained in the province, halved from approximately 90 to just 43. While the effects of this change may not be immediately noticeable for patients attending provincial hospitals, the medium to long term implications are serious.
The DoH has cited budget constraints as the reason for the many vacant posts. While it is clear that something has to give when there are budget pressures, critical posts cannot be the casualty.
The DA will raise this matter at the next meeting of the KZN Health portfolio committee. We expect MEC Dhlomo and his officials to look again at the hard options and cut expenses elsewhere. This will require constant reviews at multiple levels including looking at models used in other provinces such as the Western Cape which has proved to have an excellent DoH.
Limping along with so many critical post vacancies is not an acceptable solution.