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28 March 2018


Hospersa has criticised the Department of Health (DoH) for the poor standard of health care services that millions of South Africans that depend on public health facilities are being subjected to.  The embattled department has come under heavy criticism for corruption and maladministration, gross Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) violations, staff shortages as well as rising medico-legal claims.  The Union has called for a national health indaba to resuscitate the department which it has labelled as in crisis-mode.

The DoH has come under heavy criticism for the poor standard of service delivery in public health facilities.  Fueling to the criticism has been the corruption and maladministration scandals which have rocked the department at its provincial offices.  In the North West Province, the Health Head of Department is caught up in mobile-clinics scandal where it is believed he illegally awarded a multi-million rand contract to a dubious “Gupta-linked” company.  In Gauteng, poor decision making by the province’s former health officials led to the death of 144 mentally ill patients.  In KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), oncology treatment for cancer patients is still compromised due to broken equipment.  It is alleged that the procurement of maintenance services for the machines was given to a local company with links to senior government officials instead of the preferred authorized service provider.

“We have consistently spoken out against corruption and maladministration in these provinces,” said Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines.  “The cadre deployee phenomenon has had a devastating effect on the delivery of health care services whereby senior health officials are seemingly appointed according to political party affiliation and not on merit.  As a result, the provincial health departments get caught up in dodgy dealings as senior officials try to loot as much as they can during their term of office.  Patient care is also compromised as decisions are often taken from ill-advised positions,” argued Desfontaines.

Gross OHS violations in public health facilities also contribute towards poor service delivery.  Leaking ceilings, broken elevators and depleted buildings have become the new face of public health care.  A number of hospitals and clinics have been red-flagged to be in violation of OHS standards, yet the DoH is moving at a snail’s pace in addressing the reported OHS contraventions.  Furthermore, health care workers in many public health facilities are forced to work in critically under-staffed workplaces due to a moratorium on the filing of vacant funded posts.  This adds even more pressure on the roll out of quality health care services resulting in health care workers getting the blame for departmental challenges beyond their control.

“The staff morale of public health care workers is low due to the poor working condition,” said Desfontaines.  “We have met with the Director General (DG) for the National Department of Health to address the need for an OHS policy.  We have also raised our concerns in the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) on the lifting of the moratorium on vacant funded posts and have consistently raised these issues with the Minister of Health.  However, government has downplayed our concerns and has continued as if it is business as usual while service delivery degenerates,” added Desfontaines.

Another contributing factor to the system collapse is the rising cost of medico-legal claims against the DoH.  The most recent of these claims is the Life Esidimeni Arbitration whereby affected families of the 144 mentally ill patients that died under the care of the Gauteng DoH are set to be compensated R1.2 million each.  The Health Ombudsman estimates that the DoH owes over R50 billion medico-legal claims.  It is also estimated that the Eastern Cape has the highest number of these claims amounting to over R17 billion.  The Health Ombudsman has labeled the DoH as a “total mess” hence there are so many claims against the embattled department.

“We share the same sentiments with the Health Ombudsman,” said Desfontaines.  “It is frightening to watch a system collapse in front of your eyes, especially one as critical as health.  There needs to be an urgent renewal of the DoH to ensure efficient service delivery to communities is achieved,” said Desfontaines.

“Hospersa calls on government to urgently arrange a national health indaba and invite key stakeholders to have genuine discussions about the poor state of service delivery in health.  The objective of the indaba should be to map out a way forward in addressing challenges faced by the DoH as well as to propose measures of accountability for officials in key positions,” said Desfontaines.

“Health is one of the most basic and crucial services to be provided by the state, and in our country it is estimated that more than 80% of the population are dependent on public health facilities.  Ignoring our plea for an urgent national health indaba is the same as subjecting millions of South Africans to further deplorable health care services,” concluded Desfontaines.



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For interviews please contact Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines – 083-321-4427.

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