37,000 public health sector posts remain unfilled

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South Africa has not filled over 37,000 posts in the public health sector, according to monitoring by the the Treatment Action Campaign.

A Free State spokesperson said pressure groups such the TAC were not helpful as they ‘fail to appreciate’ government’ s challenges.

A Sowetan report says this is contained in a series of reports on the state of health in provinces by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), based on monitoring efforts which took place from November 2017 until this year. According to the report, Limpopo had over 44,000 funded posts. Only 35,450 were filled by February 2017.

Other badly-affected provinces include KwaZulu-Natal, with 8,904 vacant posts, while the Free State had 4,101 and Gauteng stood at 6,100 posts.

The TAC blamed the situation on factors such as the freezing of posts by provincial departments, difficulty getting specialists and staff members who either retire or leave the system in search of greener pastures in the private sector.

TAC Limpopo chair Moses Makhomisani is quoted in the report as saying that he had handed the report over to the department after visiting 33 clinics and hospitals. Makhomisani said during their assessment they found that the shortages impacted heavily on hospitals and clinics. He said at one clinic nurses had to take on administrative duties because there were no clerks. “We noticed that the shortage of staff is a critical issue,” Makhomisani said.

He said problems also included the lack of basic implements such as TB masks, and that hospital buildings were falling apart.

The report says the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) was also expected to hold a briefing to outline plans for a day of action. Nehawu said it wanted the department to resolve issues, including the failure to hire community health workers on permanent basis.

Limpopo’s Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba said she previously shared the department’s hiring plans with the TAC. “I sat with them and showed them we are going to advertise posts of CEOs and clinical managers,” Ramathuba said. She said department recently appointed clinical managers and CEOs in Mokopane, Donald Fraser, Letaba and Lebowakgomo public hospitals. She said a number of specialists were also appointed, adding that the 108 nurses would also be employed. Ramathuba said in the report that the department had also decided not to build any new facilities and to focus on refurbishing old infrastructure and denied the health system was falling apart.

According to the report on Free State, only 1, 420 posts out of 21,521 funded posts in the province were filled. Free State Health Department spokesperson Mondli Mvambi said they had identify posts to be filled. “The department is trying to fill vacant posts at every possible level,” Mvambi said. He said it was difficult to retain doctors as many people wanted to work in big cities.

He is quoted in the report as saying that pressure groups such the TAC were not helpful as they failed to appreciate government’ s challenges.

KZN Health Department could not be reached for comment.


Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa says her department is tackling the issue of filling critical posts, reports Business Day. Last year alone‚ eight senior managers left the department. Ramokgopa said the department has been able to appoint a head of department‚ a chief financial officer and a head of legal services. She added that most of the money from National Treasury would go to providing healthcare, then settling old debt.

“In the past‚ the budget would be approved here (in the legislature) and divided to all units. But each unit would also carry what they owed the previous year … Before (the units) start spending (on healthcare) they would pay what they owed service providers the previous year. But from this year they won’t have to that‚” she said. “This year is the first where we are turning the tide in protecting frontline services.”

Ramokgopa continued: “Over the next three years‚ Treasury has given us dedicated and ring-fenced funds – R1.5bn for this year. We have prioritised paying all small-, micro, and medium-sized enterprises. Those to which we owe R10m and below‚ we will be paying in two tranches this year. There are 39 big businesses with which we have negotiated and we will be paying them over the medium-term expenditure framework period.”

The units would now have to control spending and keep it within the budget. “If you don’t live within the budget, you create a problem for the next year.”

The report says the Gauteng Health Department has struggled with accruals for years. Ramokgopa said each year‚ debt would rise by R2bn, but in the current financial year‚ accruals dropped from R6.9bn to R6.5bn – a sign‚ she said, that the department was turning the corner.



Sowetan report
TAC report
Business Day report

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