The 2023/24 budget allocation for the National Department of Health has declined by   R4,4bn from R64.5bn in 22/23 to R60.1 billion in 2023/24. Health Minister Joe Phaahla says this can be attributed to the discontinuation of conditional grants allocated for fighting Covid-19.

Delivering the budget vote in the National Assembly in Parliament on Tuesday, the minister says both the pandemic and loadshedding have hurt the economy. 

“The financing of public health is seriously negatively affected by this situation. The fact of the matter is that there is not even an inflation adjustment and there are also reductions in allocations to existing programs,” says Phaahla.

Health underfunded

He says the treasury acknowledges the health sector is underfunded to a minimum of R11-billion. 

“We believe commutatively it is much higher. 89.2% of our budget is transferred to provinces and in the current budget the transfers and subsidies to provinces are at R56.2bn of the R60.1bn.”

The minister says now that Covid-19 is no longer a public health emergency, the department can now focus on improving services across the board from Primary Health Care to specialised care. 

Health budget allocated for new facilities

Improving health services will require well-maintained facilities and new infrastructure. “To support provinces in this regard we have R7.2 billion over 3 years for direct transfer based on approved plans. Under NHI grants we have R1.4 billion which is implemented by the NDOH in provinces on agreed projects from primary health care up to tertiary services.”

He says the funds to build the Limpopo Academic Hospital comes from this budget. Construction on the Siloam Hospital in Limpopo started 10 months ago. Building of the Zithulele and Bambisana hospitals in Eastern Cape and Dihlabeng Hospital in Free State is also underway.

Phaahla says the department is looking at ways to ensure these facilities are delivered ahead of time and under budget. 

“Acquisition and maintenance of equipment are also under the spotlight where we are also looking at faster turnaround times and reliable maintenance plans,” he told MPs. – Health-e News