Unpaid service providers at Eastern Cape hospitals have halted their services, putting patients’ lives at risk.
Provincial health said it owed creditors more than R3bn, but has blamed its financial woes on medico-legal claims, having forked out R921,2m on claims during the 2020-21 financial year.
The province’s Health Department is now unable to provide numerous critical services and supplies, and is being forced to turn away patients or keep existing patients in hospitals for longer periods while awaiting vital supplies for surgical procedures.
According to the Daily Dispatch, some 50 companies contracted by the department to offer critical services like orthopaedic implants, theatre equipment, mortuary services, laundry, kitchen and the maintenance of infrastructure in various hospitals and clinics, have apparently been unpaid for months, in some cases, even years.
Now hospital and health centre managers are allegedly pleading with the contractors to deliver supplies, despite the payment delays, while they desperately try to maintain patient care.
At least 40 main contractors supplying services for the department, including mortuaries and theatre equipment, are owed about R600m. Electrical and kitchen contractors also have payments outstanding.
Another service provider, who is owed R3,8m, recently went to court where an order was granted to attach the assets of the department. The company supplies Frere and Livingstone hospitals in East London and Gqeberha, respectively, with products used to repair fractured limbs.
The department also owes more than R332m to the provincial Department of Transport for a fleet of emergency medical services and staff vehicles under the management of that department, reports the Dispatch.
Provincial health spokesperson Yonela Dekeda said the department was faced with a number of financial challenges due to the upfront settlement of medico-legal claims, but was prioritising the payment of its creditors, particularly small, medium and micro enterprises.
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