Gauteng DA shadow health MEC Jack Bloom has warned that this year’s provincial health budget, a staggering R40.2 billion, is at risk of being depleted by the end of the year. This will be three months before the end of the financial year.
Health MEC Dr Gwendoline Malegwale Ramokgopa tabled the departmental budget earlier today and reassured the province’s residents that the Life Esidimeni crisis would be used as a case study to anchor service delivery excellence in mental health provision.
“I have to say that this is the worst health budget ever tabled in this house [Gauteng provincial legislature],” Bloom said.
According to Bloom, the biggest constraint in the budget was “because R11 billion of the R40.2 billion budget is not available in this budgetary year for the delivery of health services”.
Adding to the woes, “accruals of R4.2 billion have to be settled, and there are contractual commitments of R3 billion and possible payments of R3.8 billion for medical negligence this year”.
In real terms, this means that only 73% of this budget is available, and the province risks running out of budget by December this year. Bloom characterised the situation as “a budget nightmare”.
“Financial management has never recovered from the disaster unleashed by Brian Hlongwa, who took over as health MEC from honourable Ramokgopa in early 2006. The lack of consequence for corruption and mismanagement continues in this department,” Bloom said.
He said that resulted in only 77 out of 166 service delivery targets achieved in the previous financial year. This translates to a 54% failure rate.
The financial complexity of the budget is also aggravated by capital budget being 18% down from the previous year. Bloom said Treasury withheld “R860 million for hospital infrastructure, pending submission and approvals of plans by the department”.
“This department is incapable of building anything in reasonable time and vaguely near budget,” he said.
Bloom said another area of concern was the continuing failure of “Folateng private wards that lost R12.6 million last year”.
“These wards were started by Ramokgopa in 2002, and since then an astounding total of R569 million has been written off. But instead of closing them, the MEC wants to expand the services offered,” he explained.
The official opposition in the province has also identified lack of information management as being responsible for long queues at public health facilities.
“I hope that the promised deadlines are met for the scanning of all patient files by next year. Electronic files should be part of a comprehensive health information system to improve efficiency and cut down waiting times,” Bloom said.
Gauteng department of health spokesperson Sabani Vuyo emailed The Citizen the budget speech when asked to respond to specific questions raised by the DA.