Folateng wards still open at CMJH

Written by Thabo Molelekwa

Medics at a Johannesburg hospital say they are concerned that private wards are attributing to a shortage of beds for patients who cannot afford the cost of private health care.

In 2002 the Department of Health opened the private Folateng wards at the Pretoria West Hospital, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital, Sebokeng and Helen Joseph Hospitals, but they were closed in 2014 after National Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi insisted that all beds in public hospitals be used for public patients only.

However, while all the Folateng wards have been closed at other hospitals, they are still operating at CMJH.

Losing money

The Folateng wards were supposed to make money from private patients, and those funds would be used to subsidise the costs of state patients. But according to Democratic Alliance health spokesman Jack Bloom, poor administration led to the wards losing large amounts of money.

“Two years ago, former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu disclosed in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature that R138 million in patient fees was owed to Folateng, mostly from private medical aids,”said Bloom

When Mahlangu was asked why it had taken so long to close all the wards, she said there had been difficulties because “notice had to be given for the termination of private contracts” and that “the units were integrated into the main hospital”.

Bloom told Health-e News that the Folateng fiasco was an expensive mistake.

“They lost more than R500 million in total since inception, including the cost of expensive building alterations,” he said.

Bed shortage

According to a report by the Gauteng Legislature’s Health Committee, the Folateng wards in four Gauteng public hospitals ran at a loss of about R40 million in 2012. Another R30 million was lost at the 127 bed Folateng unit at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital, which had pulled R42 million in revenue but paid out R72 million in expenses

In a letter by Head of Medicine at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital Professor Kenneth Huddle and his colleagues, published in the South African Medical Journal in 2014, the Folateng wards are causing a shortage of beds in the hospital.

“We admit over 100 patients a day, and not infrequently have more patients than available beds. The result is that very sick people are kept waiting on chairs for long periods of time. This is a totally unacceptable situation that needs a strategic solution,” the letter stated, recommending that the Folateng wards be closed.

According to Prince Hamnca, head of communications at the Gauteng Department of Health, only the Folateng unit at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital’s Folateng remained operational, and was now making money.

“The unit is generating a profit. In the past financial year the hospital made about R36 million (from it),” said Hamnca.

He said that Charlotte Maxeke utilises the Folateng beds for state patients whenever there is an overflow. – Health-e News

An edited version of this story was also published in The Star

About the author

Thabo Molelekwa

Thabo Molelekwa joined OurHealth citizen journalists project in 2013 and went on to become an intern reporter in 2015. Before joining Health-e News, Thabo was a member of the Treatment Action Campaign’s Vosloorus branch. He graduated from the Tshwane University of Technology with a diploma in Computer Systems and started his career at Discovery Health as a claims assessor. In 2016 he was named an International HIV Prevention Reporting Fellow with the International Centre for Journalists and was a finalist in the Discovery Health Journalism Awards competition in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Thabo also completed a feature writing course at the University of Cape Town in 2016. In 2017 he became a News reporter , he is currently managing the Citizen Journalism programme.You can follow him on @molelekwa98