Gauteng health owed R127.6m by other government departments
The department has also written off R1.9bn in patient debts.
The entrance to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is pictured, 7 June 2015, in Soweto, Johannesburg. Evidence has emerged showing that staff have been abusing patients. Picture: Alaister Russell
The recently tabled Gauteng department of health 2016/17 annual report shows the cash-strapped department is owed R127.6 million by other government departments.
The report shows that a large part of this debt has been outstanding for many years and that R1.9 billion in patient debt has been written off.
North West’s department of health is the biggest debtor, with R38.4 million in patient fees outstanding. The Mpumalanga department of health owes R19.1 million.
The historical legacy of former homelands continues to this day, with at least five provinces ferrying patients daily to Gauteng to access specialist health services, particularly tertiary health services at Steve Biko and Charlotte Maxeke hospitals.
Various government departments fail to settle patient debts owed to the Gauteng department of health
The Limpopo department of health, which recently upgraded Polokwane Hospital to a tertiary health facility, owes Gauteng R12.9 million. The department of correctional services owes R17.4 million, while South African Police Services (SAPS) has a patient debt of R4.6 million.
The national department of health owes R25.9 million for the Cuba medical training programme and R4.4 million in other grants.
Gauteng DA shadow minister of health Jack Bloom said it was distressing that the department was owed large amounts of money by other government departments when it was struggling to pay its bills and had even had its assets attached.
“More effort should be put into collecting ordinary patient fees, rather than writing off R1.9 billion. Gauteng Premier David Makhura should also be much more assertive in getting money from other government entities to assist our struggling health department,” Bloom added.
The department is itself not beyond reproach in discharging its mandate. The report also reveals conditional grants of about R672 926 000 were withheld by the national department. Reasons given for this included the late approval of planning documents, delays in procurement, lack of delegations and late payment of invoices.
Parliamentary portfolio committee on health is ‘extremely concerned’
Appearing before the parliamentary health committee last week, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi told parliamentarians his hands were tied, as he had no authority to interfere with human resources, procurement, financial management and infrastructure maintenance. The law states that those are provincial competencies.
Lindelwa Dunjwa, chairperson of the committee, said while they were extremely concerned with the situation in Gauteng, they had confidence in the task team established by Makhura and chaired by finance MEC Barbara Creecy to hold back the tide of financial collapse in the department.
“We also received a report which looked into health delivery challenges in six provinces, and we agreed that all provinces experience the same problems. We will await the Gauteng leadership to brief us on the matter,” Dunjwa said.
Telkom refuses to budge on the department’s outstanding debt
Meanwhile, telephones lines are still off at both the provincial head office and Bheki Mlangeni District Hospital in Soweto. It has already been two weeks since departmental spokesperson Prince Hamnca said the department would approach Telkom with a payment plan. The Citizen is awaiting a response from Hamnca and Telkom on the issue.
Councillor Mahlomola Kekana, chairperson of the Bheki Mlangeni hospital board, confirmed the telephone lines were cut off and the facility relied on cellphones to communicate.
“We operate on the basis of PFMA [Public Finance Management Act]. We will institute an investigation to determine who must pay Telkom, whether the central office if money was allocated to the hospital. I have convened a meeting tomorrow to look at the finances in totality, not just the phones,” Kekana told The Citizen.