Free State Health Department spokesperson Elke de Witt also confirmed that the status quo in the province was still the same since cost cutting measures were announced in November last year.

She said the provincial health department was expected to review the situation at the end of January.

TAC General Secretary Vuyiseka Dubula revealed in a letter sent last week to Free State Health MEC Sakhiwo Belot that the province was not only short of ARVs, but also of other medication in clinics.

Dubula urged Belot to address the questions the TAC posed in a letter sent on December 19. Belot has failed to respond the letters which were copied to Health Minister Barbara Hogan.

The Free State health department announced in November that its financial situation has reached ‘€œdire proportions’€ forcing it to postpone all non-emergency surgery until January and stop all non-critical staff appointments.

In another move HIV clinics were coming under increasing threat of being closed down as they were considered part of the outpatient services which were being stopped. At the time the TAC said it also continued to receive reports from doctors who are turning critically ill patients away from their clinics because of antiretroviral shortages.

‘€œA large number of people are going to die over Christmas. These cuts immediately translate into death, that is the open and shut of it,’€ Dr Francois Venter, President of the HIV Clinicians Society, said at the time.

Questions posed by the TAC to Belot that have remain unanswered include details around the financial resources provided to the Free State, how the additional resources have been spent, whether the moratorium on initiating new patients on treatment has been rescinded (if not, why not), what plans have been put in place to initiate those patients needing treatment, which services had been put on hold due to the budget crisis and whether there had been any formal communication between the province, health professionals and patients.

Belot failed to meet both the January 5 and 26 deadlines to respond to the TAC letters.

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