Turnaround strategy for NWest health dept welcomed

Critical remedies include 'establishment of a strong executive and senior management team to implement mandate'

Turnaround strategy for North West health dept welcomed

4 June 2018

Chairperson of the North West legislature’s Portfolio Committee on Health and Social Development, Madoda Sambatha, has welcomed provincial Department of Health administrator Jeanette Hunter’s turnaround strategy and status report on the Section 100 (1)(b) intervention in the province.

Sambatha, in a statement released on Monday, explained that the application of the section meant that the department would report directly to the national minister of health, through the administrator, for a period of 18 months. This could be extended if approved by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

Health services in the North West have been disrupted since the beginning of the year after National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) members embarked on a strike.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in May that he was placing the North West health department under the administration of the national government.

He appointed a team, under the leadership of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to get to the bottom of the crisis that was exacerbated by protests calling for the removal of then-premier Supra Mahumapelo.

Mahumapelo bowed to pressure and resigned last month.

Sambatha said Hunter needed to find permanent solutions in order to restore services.

"We can see that the suspended HOD, Dr Thabo Lekalakala, has almost collapsed the entire department through outsourcing most key functions, such as the human resource management, finance and supply chain management and provision of basic healthcare in communities, and not compensating staff accordingly.

"Dr Lekalakala did not only compromise the functions of the department’s head office but affected district and tertiary hospitals and clinics through transversal contracts on coal, catering, laundry and emergency services. We urge the administrator to 'de-tenderise' the department," said Sambatha.

He said basic procedural matters had not been followed in supply chain management, resulting in the emergence of the Mediosa, and other emergency services contracts that compromised essential services, such as the HIV/Aids programmes.

The Gupta-linked Mediosa made headlines earlier this year, following revelations that the North West government had paid the medical technology company R30m.

Challenges facing health dept

Some of the union's grievances included issues of outsourcing, corruption and unpaid bonuses. They also demanded a forensic investigation into various provincial departments.

This has been backed up by Hunter, who says some of the current challenges in the department include high accruals in operation budgeting running out as early as September 2017, discontinuation of certain healthcare services due to lack of budget, staff shortages and poor building maintenance in public healthcare facilities.

"In the finance directorate, there are poor financial controls and non-payment of suppliers and frequent violation of supply chain regulations. There is non-payment of performance incentives for staff, and the departmental organisational structure is not in line with the service delivery package, resulting in an unaccountable organisation," said Hunter.

Hunter said critical remedies would include the establishment of a strong executive and senior management team to implement the department’s mandate.

"The team will develop and implement an accrual management strategy, debt management strategy, and complete costing of public healthcare and hospital package of service.

"We will also develop a strategy for proactive maintenance of hospital equipment and improve pharmaceutical services to ensure direct delivery of medicine to healthcare centres," said Hunter.

On improving emergency medical services and planned patient transport, she said the intervention team would assist the department to develop a provincial structure with a communication system and computer aided dispatch system, procure 40 new ambulances, and construct emergency medical services stations that are closer to communities.