New Health Minister, Barbara Hogan, has been hard at work to address some of the immediate problems. One involves a condom shortage. Government distributes 33 million free condoms a month to provinces, but this month it has not been able to do so. According to reliable sources only 7 million condoms were distributed this month. Shortages have been reported from health centres in the Western Cape and Gauteng.
‘What my officials are saying is that what government in the procurement procedures has tended to do is procure for six months ahead. And they are now reducing that procurement period just because it’s just silly to procure six months ahead. And this seems to be creating a short-term problem about adjusting to a shorter procurement period,’ said Hogan.
She added that health department officials were ‘looking’ at the matter.
Shortly before the problem of the condom shortage, Hogan’s had to address the financial crisis in the Free State. Health centres delayed putting about 400 patients on ARVs and postponed all emergency operations.
‘This alarmed us enormously. You can’t have a shut-down. We all know it just simply cannot happen,’ said Hogan incredulously.
The national Department of Health dispatched a team of senior officials to investigate the situation. The high-level investigation revealed that the money that national Treasury had allocated to the province for HIV and AIDS was way short of the required funding. In fact, it was given R63 million less than what it had budgeted for this last financial year. It also emerged that the province had exceeded its target of having 27 000 people on ARV treatment this year by more than 2 000, thus making greater demands on available supplies. The national Department of Health has since released a conditional grant of R9.5 million to the Free State to ensure that the province can procure more medicines.