Less than a day after leaders from some of South Africa’s most prominent political parties appeared in a Covid-19 outbreak press conference alongside president Cyril Ramaphosa to present a united front against the pandemic, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng has issued a statement blasting the Gauteng health department for the state of its infrastructure.
In the statement, compiled by the party’s shadow MEC for infrastructure development and property management Alan Fuchs, the party said it was pleased that the department “has finally come clean and admitted that its buildings pose a risk to the public. This comes after years of disingenuity and whitewashing about the poor state of the department’s infrastructure”.
Fuchs went on to cite the capital budget document for the 2020/21 financial year which said “the department’s infrastructure continued to suffer from a cumulative deferred maintenance backlog resulting in the deterioration of the value and functionality of facilities posing increased danger to both patients and employees”.
According to the DA, a decision was taken in 2018 to put all the department’s infrastructure projects on hold because of financial constraints.
“This moratorium has been lifted, but the financial situation has not improved to the extent required to deal decisively with infrastructure shortcomings.”
A recent conditional assessment of 32 hospitals in the province indicated that an estimated amount of R6 billion was required to ensure that the facilities were compliant with health and safety requirements, explained the party.
“The latest budget document indicates that R1.33 billion will be provided for this purpose over the next three years, but gives no indication as to where the rest of the money will come from. In addition, the maintenance budget for this year has been reduced by R189 million as compared to last year.”
Although the party welcomed what it called a “frank admission regarding the poor state of infrastructure”, they have expressed their concern that the response from the administration provides no comfort that the situation will be remedied anytime soon.
“One response from the administration in the recent past was to create a maintenance policy. One wonders how they operated in the past without such a policy or standard operating procedures. Clearly, the lack of expertise in the department has been exposed.”
The DA concluded by saying there were those who saw the introduction of National Health Insurance (NHI) as a silver bullet in providing additional finance to fix the system, but even with additional finance, the lack of management expertise in the public sector was likely to be NHI’s death knell.