Premier must see to it that debt owed to NHLS by NC Health Dept. is settled

By Harold McGluwa MPL DA Northern Cape Provincial Spokesperson of Health:

The DA has escalated our call on the provincial administration to recoup debt of at least R23,5 million owed to the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) from the Northern Cape Health Department.

The DA has today written to Premier Sylvia Lucas (see letter attached) to request her to urgently intervene in the impending crisis triggered by the Health Department’s failure to make outstanding payments to service providers, particularly the NHLS.

Failure by the Northern Cape Health Department to settle their debt with the NHLS is seriously compromising the institution’s ability to provide diagnostic services, with life and death consequences.

Due to the financial uncertainty in which the NHLS finds itself, the institution has implemented a policy of “gate keeping” when it comes to the processing of laboratory tests. If the NHLS doesn’t think that a specific test is essential, then they don’t process the sample and the consultant requesting the test first has to provide an authorisation number to get the test done. As a direct result of this, care for some patients is being delayed.

Last month, the DA wrote to the MEC of Provincial Treasury, John Block, requesting that he intervenes by seeing to it that the debt owed to the NHLS is urgently paid by the Health Department. Our request, however, has apparently not been taken seriously and now health services for the sick and vulnerable people of this province are suffering.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Health Department lacks the capacity to manage its own finances. This is not surprising given that the department has been without a permanent CFO for over a year now and that the Supply Chain Management (SCM) Unit remains largely understaffed.

It is for this reason that the Premier needs to institute some sort of intervention to assist the department to get its finances in order and to ensure that the department pays all outstanding debt as a matter of urgency.

The Premier must ensure that the Laboratory Services are kept in business to ensure that medical cases are treated properly, that crimes are solved and that the province is a safe and healthy place.