Freeze in healthcare appointments will prejudice health delivery

By Jane Sithole, MPL, Spokesperson on Health:

The Mpumalanga Health department has been advised by the Budget and Finance Committee to stop employing much-needed healthcare professionals at various facilities in the province due to excessive debt in the Health Department.

This decision to freeze appointments calls into question Finance MEC, Eric Kholwane’s decision to withdraw the Health department’s curatorship after stating that the department was now financially stable – this drastic step proves that Kholwane was grossly mistaken.

The department is on record to the Health portfolio committee, in response to the 1st quarter performance report of 2015/16 that R253 million of the department’s debt has already been paid and the outstanding R104 million will be paid by 31 October 2015. Only thereafter will appointments be un-frozen.

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According to the department’s Annual Performance Plan (APP) for this current financial year the vacancy rate for healthcare staff is 36.7%.

The department had previously been given the approval to fill 1571 positions in this financial year but only 692 posts had been filled as at 30 June 2015 – which is simply too slow to provide quality healthcare. All this while the department is excluded from the province-wide moratorium on filling all vacant funded and unfunded posts.

The stark reality of R357 million worth of accruals, is devastating when one takes into consideration the number of job opportunities lost.

The department could have employed the following healthcare professionals;

  • 1682 Grade 1 professional nurses, or
  • 1368 Grade 2 professional nurses, or
  • 1022 Grade 3 professional nurses, or
  • 597   Grade 1 Medical Officers, or
  • 514   Grade 2 Medical Officers, or
  • 389   Grade 3 Medical Officers, or
  • 724   Grade 1 Pharmacists

Many healthcare facilities across the province are understaffed which leads to community members having to wait many hours to be seen by tired and overworked healthcare professionals. This will only get worse as posts are now frozen from being filled.