NDOH promises supplies in Gauteng
By tomorrow, public health facilities in Gauteng will have medicines and there must be a plan to pay out all outstanding debts to suppliers of critical services and commodities that enable proper health care delivery. That’s according to national Health Department Director-General, Precious Matsoso.
Gauteng province is currently experiencing shortages of medicines and many critical health care products and services such as laboratory diagnostics. But this is the tip of the ice-berg, according to Health Department Director-General, Precious Matsoso. She says the problem in Gauteng is a reflection of what’s happening in a number of other provinces.
‘There’s a recognition that there are problems at the moment and as a department we have a responsibility to work with provinces across the country. It’s not only Gauteng’¦ Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and so on’, Matsoso says.
Earlier this week, concerned clinicians working in Gauteng met with senior Health Department officials to register their concerns and demand that health services in the province be restored. At the meeting, Matsoso assured concerned clinicians that they will have medicines to treat their patients by the end of this week.
‘By Friday, there must be medicines in facilities. We have no reason there shouldn’t be’, she promised.
‘It’s actually sad that our country is in such a state because it cannot be. These are tools of trade that health workers use that should always be available in correct amounts, at the right time’, says Matsoso.
Central to the problem in Gauteng is money. The provincial health department has been unable to pay suppliers for services and commodities they render. Some suppliers have stopped rendering services and have threatened litigation. The national Health Department says it has dispatched a high-level team of officials, including its Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to intervene.
‘We have our CFO working with the provincial CFO to make sure that we can crack these numbers to ensure that we can come up with a payment plan for the suppliers. By Friday’¦ the instruction from the Minister of Health and Minister of Finance is that there must be supplies. We must make sure it happens. We must be meeting with the suppliers to ensure that we can again gain credibility. I’ve got one of our top officials who is responsible for pharmaceutical supplies who will be engaging the suppliers. At least, I’ll be able to say with confidence, we’ll be able to. Another official is dealing with the laboratory problem – Dr Yogan Pillay, Dr Anban Pillay as well as the CFO, Mr van der Merwe. All of them are out there’, Matsoso says.
Patients waiting for their TB results and those who may need to start taking antiretroviral therapy have also been left stranded as laboratory services have been cut down due to the financial crisis. About 30 National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) facilities have shut down in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Matsoso says the department has already started to bail out the NHLS, which is owed about R2 billion by Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal only.
‘We have been able to raise an over-draft. It was on the basis of the amount that they had requested’¦ to raise an over-draft ‘ about R500 million. I think they were given permission to raise an over-draft of R350 (million). This is just to sustain services. But, of course, we are working on a plan for them to sort out some of the problems with the provinces so that we have a sustainable programme’, she says.
The Health Director-General says the department is working closely with Treasury to ensure that the causes of the financial issues in Gauteng are being addressed to prevent the health system from collapsing even further.
‘You cut wastage and you introduce efficiencies and you deal with maladministration and inappropriate utilisation of resources and services. That’s one level. The second is instances where there is gross under-funding. We have to address that as well. I would imagine in Gauteng we could be dealing with what I call the terrible twins of chronic under-funding and gross administrative problems ‘ wastage and administration and management problems’.