When asked for comment, the head of health in Gauteng, Dr Nomonde Xundu, flatly denied reports that she is leaving the struggling provincial health department. She said: ‘I don’t know anything about my leaving the department’. Dr Xundu would not be convinced to grant us an interview, but said: ‘You can go ahead and run the story’.
But reports are rife within the Gauteng Health Department that Dr Nomonde Xundu, who started work on November 4th last year, is serving notice and is leaving at the end of this month. A senior official within the provincial health department said it’s impossible that the reports have been fabricated. When contacted for comment, spokesperson, Simon Zwane, said he cannot confirm Dr Xundu’s departure. But he admitted that strong rumours are circulating. Another senior official within the department also confirmed the reports, saying the office of the Deputy Director-General of Human Resources Management and Development in the provincial Health Department is in possession of a letter requesting Dr Xundu’s release. Democratic Alliance Health spokesperson in Gauteng, Jack Bloom, also confirmed the reports.
‘I’ve tried to ascertain the truth and it appears that Dr Xundu is actually leaving. The information I have is that Dr Xundu is not coping and she didn’t actually have the background for it. She didn’t have experience in academic hospitals, which is a very important part of the Health Department’s function. It’s a very large job. In fact, I think it needs a person of the highest capabilities and experience’, Bloom says.
A source within the department says Dr Xundu decided to leave after pleading with Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, for a position in the national Health Department, but was told that there was none. She then personally requested the Health Minister that she be released from her position as head of the Gauteng Health Department. Citing her limited expertise in health, which is in the HIV field, sources say Dr Xundu had long realised that she can’t cope running a ‘huge, complex and ailing’ system such as the Gauteng Health Department. It is reported that within just one week as head of department, Dr Xundu resigned, but was persuaded to stay on by former Health MEC, Ntombi Mekgwe.
‘I have the highest respect for Dr Xundu in her AIDS experience. But that’s not what you need to run a massive department with a budget of more than R20 billion. It’s a very complex department. I think you need hospital experience, you need a broad range of management experience, you’ve got to be an excellent administrator and there are some very difficult issues to tackle there. I think she has not been able to cope, which I think is a pity. And I have to ask why she was appointed in the first place’, says Bloom.
Staff within the department is reported to be without confidence in Dr Xundu, with sources reporting that ‘people are happy about rumours of her imminent departure and are praying that the rumour mill be true’. They say they want her gone because she lacks leadership and management qualities and people skills. They also say that Dr Xundu has not been able to achieve anything in the department in the past year because people resisted her management style.
If Dr Xundu leaves at the end of this month, this will be the third head of the Gauteng Health Department to leave in as many years. This is cause for concern in a department that is plagued with corruption and mismanagement and struggles to deliver an efficient health service. The head of department who left in 2010, Sybil Ngcobo, is being charged by the Special Investigations Unit for corruption. In 2011, Kamy Chetty left the position after only one year. Reasons for her resignation are still not clear. After just 11 months, the current incumbent, Dr Nomonde Xundu, is reported to be leaving.
‘I really think that anybody who comes into the job is going to need a bit of time to find out about the job. So, to have this huge turnover ‘ somebody comes in, it takes them six months to get on top of the job or try and get on top of the job and then they leave six months later ‘ this can’t be healthy for the organisation. I think that it’s time that we had certainty, excellent, competent people there and fix up the financials of this department. Why can’t we get senior personnel who do the job, stay and fix up?’, Bloom laments.