Telkom cuts services to Gauteng Health offices over non-payment

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Telkom, the state-owned wireline and wireless telecommunications company, has confirmed it terminated services to the Gauteng Health provincial head offices situated in the Bank of Lisbon building on Sauer Street in the Johannesburg CBD. The Citizen reports that the company, however, remained mum on why Bheki Mtshali Hospital, situated in the Jabulani section of Soweto, has had similar actions taken against it.

“Telkom confirms that services at the head office of Gauteng Health are currently suspended pending the outcome of discussions regarding outstanding payment. This only applies to the Lisbon building in central Johannesburg. Although this is an unfortunate development, Telkom has over the past few months engaged with the department to resolve this matter, but to no avail. We hope that this matter will be resolved soon in order to restore the affected services,” said company spokesperson Gugulethu Maqetuka.

Prince Hamnca, the department spokesperson, also confirmed that “the landlines at central office have not been functional as a result of payment-related issues”. Hamnca said they had started discussions with Telkom to resolve the matter and present Telkom with a payment plan by the end of the week.

Maqetuka is also quoted in the report as saying that Telkom was unwilling to disclose how much it was owed by Gauteng department, as it was a confidential matter. Right to Know campaign organiser Mark Weinberg argued that this was just a red herring, and the media was entitled to this information.

“The provincial health department is not a legal entity. The South African government and taxpayers are responsible for budgetary allocations they get from Treasury. Failure to provide this information may force those requiring the information to make a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application.

“I also assume that Telkom’s policy is like that because unpaid account information will be dealt with by Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act. But we are talking about a provincial department failing to pay another state entity. This information should be made available to those requesting it,” Weinberg argued.

The Gauteng branch of Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) said it was “aware of the crisis and (…) extremely disturbed because Gauteng Health received the second biggest cut of the Gauteng budget for 2017/18”, but less than six months into the financial year, there were already financial problems.

“Our members, in particular those situated at the head offices, are affected, as they work from their cellphones because the lines are cut off, and equally have no furniture because of the litigation claim that GDoH is failing to pay. Members in the hospitals and clinics are worried that this will also affect their benefits, such as performance bonuses, and shortage of medication may occur if the situation continues.”

“The crisis is worrying because there are machines that are under rental in the hospitals which are maintained monthly when payment has been made and others need to be replaced to improve the level of service, especially in theatres for specialised patients like cardiology, dialysis etc. who depend on the machines,” said Simphiwe Gada, the organisation’s Gauteng chair.

Gada revealed that employees were struggling to work, as there were no plans made yet to recover or hire the furniture (recently attached), and Denosa has called on Premier David Makhura and MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa to work with Gauteng Treasury, and “if the problem is bigger than them, they must seek help from National Treasury”.

The Citizen report

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