DoH failing to fill 93 funded specialist posts at KZN hospitals

By Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL, DA KZN Alternate Spokesperson on Health:

DESPITE the ‘unfreezing’ of a number of medical specialist posts at KZN hospitals, there appears to be no urgency from the province’s Health department in filling them, with a total of 93 funded positions still vacant.

According to a parliamentary reply from Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, to questions by  the DA there remains a moratorium on filling posts due to financial constraints, however, provisions have been made for certain areas.

The reply also confirms the following specialist numbers at KZN’s regional hospitals;

–          241 filled funded specialist posts

–          71 funded unfilled specialist posts and

–          433 frozen unfunded specialist posts

In KZN’s two tertiary hospitals there are;

–          123 filled funded specialist posts

–          22 funded unfilled specialist posts and

–          78 frozen unfunded specialists.

This means that while provisions have been made for the salaries of 93 specialist posts, no one has been employed.

The DA regards this as unacceptable, especially after we reported two months ago that there are currently 10 000 critical post vacancies within the department. Given this chronic overall shortage the department should fill these funded posts as a matter of urgency.

Yet the opposite appears true.

Asked by the DA what steps the department is taking to fill the posts and the MEC advised that the department was advertising to recruit qualified specialists.  However, he gives no indication of how successful this process is proving or any time frames for the filling of these posts, simply saying that is an ongoing process.

This is indicative of an MEC who lacks political will and compassion.  Meanwhile doctors and specialists at KZN’s state hospitals and clinics are buckling under ever-increasing patient loads due to staff shortages. The situation can only worsen.

The DA recommends that MEC Dhlomo and his department implement the following steps to fill all vacant funded posts;

–           Implement an aggressive recruitment strategy with set timeframes

–           Improve working conditions in regional and tertiary hospitals to incentivise specialists to return to the public sector

–           Incentivise specialists from the private sector, especially those with scarce skills and knowledge, to do hours at hospitals and

–           Take a proactive role in lessening a future shortage of public sector specialists by increasing the intake of registrars.

The Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) Annual Report for 2014/15 confirms that only 12.62% of KZN citizens have medical aid.  The balance – 87,38% – are entirely dependent on the public health system. This figure must serve as a stark reminder to KZN’s Health Department of the magnitude of its responsibility to the people of our province.

The DA demands that the MEC and his department focus on the filling of funded specialist posts and start providing the services that it keeps promising.  We are committed to keeping a close eye on this matter and will continue to hold the department accountable in the event that it fails to act swiftly.