NEWS & ANALYSIS

Covid-19 exposes weaknesses in Gauteng Health Dept – Jack Bloom

DA MPL says it happens often that there are not enough ICU beds for emergency cases

Covid-19 crisis exposes weaknesses in the Gauteng Health Department

19 June 2020

Note to the Editors: Below is a summary extract of a speech delivered in today's debate on the 2020/21 Gauteng Health Budget.

Madam Speaker, this 2020/21 R53.5 billion Health Budget has been superseded by events. It will need to be changed substantially to effectively combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tragedy is that this viral plague exposes all the long-standing weaknesses of our health system.

Many of our hospitals are grossly overcrowded especially in the winter months - Tembisa Hospital is a notorious example.

It happens quite often that there are not enough ICU beds for emergency cases, and survival chances are worsened for many patients because of a lack of resources.

Beds have been freed up for this pandemic by the cancellation of elective surgery, which already has unacceptably long waiting lists and waiting times.

I predict today that far more people will die this year in Gauteng from preventable and treatable TB and HIV/Aids than from Covid-19. More people will also die from other causes that could have been prevented by early treatment.

Madam Speaker, we wish the Honourable Health MEC well as he confronts the Covid-19 crisis. We are all in this together, and our criticism is meant to highlight where there are deficiencies and where there can be improvements.

As in previous years, however, the DA will not be supporting this budget.

This is because there have been countless promises of a turn-around from the pervasive dysfunction and poor financial management of this department.

Budget indiscipline is as bad as ever. The department failed to spend R908.5 million in the past financial year. This was worse than the R631 million that was unspent the previous year.

There were massive underspends in some programmes and massive overspends in others. What is the use of a budget if it is not adhered to?

The accruals are still very high - over R2 billion. And only 66% of businesses were paid within the required 30 days in the fourth quarter of the last financial year.

The DA is immensely concerned at the abrupt departure at this critical time of Chief Financial Officer Kabelo Lehloenya.

We need a full explanation of this as there are lots of talk about irregularities in the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment.

Special oversight measures should be put in place to ensure that all urgent purchases are value for money and free of corruption.

We desperately hope that the department can rise to the challenge of Covid-19, but it is handicapped by years of mismanagement.

It is very likely that the Auditor-General will issue another scathing report this year.

Reluctantly, therefore, we cannot support this budget.

Issued by Jack Bloom, DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC, 19 June 2020