Financial problems hits Gauteng Health Department

Financial problems hits Gauteng Health DepartmentKwaZulu Natal Health Department is investigating patients complaints about health service delivery at Northdale Hospital. Photo: Sandile Mbili/ Health-e

Telephone lines to the Gauteng Health Department’s Head Office have been cut because Telkom has not been paid.

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For the past few months, it has been impossible for anyone to reach Health Department staff at the head office on the landline, and staff has been unable to phone out.

Khaya Xaba, the spokesperson for the National Education Health and Allied Workers (NEHAWU), said the situation at the Department of Health was impacting badly on their members and the public in a very bad way because services could not be rendered to the public and their members can’t perform their duties properly.

“The department needs a turnaround strategy and quickly before the entire system collapses,” said Xaba.

According to Xaba it has been quite a few weeks since the telephone lines were cut.

Last month the Sheriff of the Johannesburg High Court attached furniture and computers from the department following a R6.2million medical negligence claim that the Health Department had failed to pay.

The South African Board of Sheriffs (SABFS) confirmed to Health-e News that the Sheriff for Johannesburg Central, Marks Mangaba had attached assets from the Department of Health.

“The attachment was a warrant of execution from O Joubert Attorney’s for judgment value for more than R6-million,” said Tasneem Hassan Bey, the communications officer at the SABFS.

“The furniture has been placed in storage and will be sold on instructions from the attorney, as both parties are still negotiating,”  said Hassan Bey.

Failed to make payment arrangements

O J Attorneys said the Gauteng Health Department has failed to make contact with them to make payment arrangements for their client’s claim or to arrange to get their furniture back.

OJ Attorneys said their next step will be to ask the court for a warrant to give them access to the Health Department’s bank accounts.

In July the National Health Laboratory Services employees embarked on a strike for better pay and benefits. It was made public that the NHLS is also owed a lot of money by the Gauteng Health Department, and because of this had been unable to meet the demands of its employees.

OJ Attorneys said their next step will be to ask the court for a warrant to give them access to the Health Department’s bank accounts.

NHLS CEO Shabir Madhi told the Sunday Times they were owed more than R5-billion by various provinces, with Gauteng have the largest outstanding debt and we’re currently paying only two-thirds of what they were consuming.

“We will be technically bankrupt by November should the provincial health departments not pay us 100% of what they are procuring from us,” he said.

Gauteng Health Department spokesman Prince Hamnca was contacted for comment on the department’s financial woes and was asked for an update on their seized furniture and what progress had been made with regard to paying their NHLS debt.

He confirmed that the head office phone lines were not functioning, but failed to address any of the other questions put forward by Health-e News.

“We can confirm that the landlines at Central Office have not been functional as result of payment related issues. The Department has started discussions with Telkom to resolve the matter and they will be meeting before the end of this week where we will present a payment plan,” said Hamnca in his brief written response. He added that the Department would like to apologise to the public for the inconvenience caused.

An edited version of this story was also published by Health24