Gauteng Health will commit R1bn towards maintenance and refurbishment, following upon claims by the Democratic Alliance that not a single state health facility in the province meets Occupational Health and Safety Act standards.
Gauteng Health MEC, Dr Bandile Masuku has made a commitment at the health budget vote to invest more than R1bn towards the maintenance and refurbishment of facilities across the province, reports News24. One of the key focus areas of the 6th administration is occupational health and safety (OHS) compliance, Masuku said.
The report says this follows claims by Democratic Alliance (DA) Gauteng health spokesperson Jack Bloom that not a single state health facility in Gauteng had been assessed as complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Masuku said the department is committed in ensuring that all its facilities are 100% compliant with OHS by the end of the 2019/20 financial year.
Bloom said in a report carried on the Politcsweb site that four of the eight Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines in Gauteng public hospitals are broken, leading to waiting times as long as nine months for the diagnosis of hundreds of patients. He quotes Masuku as saying that the Chris Hani Baragwanath and George Mukhari hospitals each have two MRI machines, but can only rely on one machine as the other ones are broken.
The MRI machine at the Helen Joseph Hospital has been broken since March this year, and Steve Biko’s MRI machine broke down a month ago. Kalafong Hospital has a functioning MRI machine, and the sole MRI at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital is working but is very old and needs to be replaced urgently.
Bloom quotes Masuku as saying that the worst situation is at Chris Hani Baragwanath where 607 patients are waiting 9 months for a MRI scan.
The situation at other hospitals is as follows: Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg – 761 patients waiting for 7 months; George Mukhari – 298 adult patients and 120 children waiting for 2 to 3 months; Helen Joseph – current waiting time not given for 120 patients; Kalafong Hospital – 40-50 patients wait between 5 days and two weeks; and Steve Biko – 200 patients wait from 2 to 4 months.
Bloom says that MRI scans are a key diagnostic tool in modern medicine, but broken machines are causing extra suffering and life-threatening delays especially for cancer patients.
He said: “Speedy repairs and purchase of new equipment is vital for the effective functioning of our hospitals. Frequently broken machines are another area of weakness that raises questions about government’s ability to implement its ambitious NHI plans.”
Bloom said he was dismayed that occupational safety has been so neglected at Gauteng hospitals and clinics, endangering staff and patients.
“We were lucky that no lives were lost when there was a fire at the Bheki Mlangeni Hospital earlier this year, but safety measures need to be stepped up at all hospitals.
“It highlights once again how grossly unprepared the provincial health department is for the planned National Health Insurance (NHI) which requires properly accredited high-quality health facilities,” Bloom said.
Meanwhile, Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib has challenged Gauteng premier David Makhura’s call for the national Health Department to finance the province’s debt-ridden teaching hospitals, saying centralising their funding without fixing their deep-seated administrative and governance challenges won’t give patients a better deal. Speaking in a Business Day interview, Habib said: “The whole system needs to be fixed.”
The report says Habib was responding to a statement issued by Makhura in which he called on the Health Department to finance the four facilities – Charlotte Makexe, Steve Biko, Chris Hani Baragwanath and Dr George Mukhari hospitals – directly, saying that they were under-funded for their role and collectively owed R1.4bn to suppliers. The central hospitals receive ring-fenced conditional grants that are overseen by the national health department, as well as an allocation from the provincial health budget.
He said central hospitals should be overseen by an independent board, which would appoint the CEO, and the facilities should employ clinicians directly. At present, hospital CEOs are appointed by the provincial health department.