In a significant step towards bolstering healthcare services in Gauteng, a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Gauteng Department of Health and Wits University has finally been signed, signalling the start of a mutually accountable relationship, and improved internal ways to resolve problems.
This comes after six years of delays and inaction that saw patient care being affected and the academic training of healthcare professionals in the province being hamstrung, reports the Daily Maverick.
The new agreement sets stronger parameters for roles and responsibilities for both parties, includes clearer outlines for the division of time allocated for academic and research responsibilities among joint staff, and also the payment of allowances and remuneration outside the public service.
Hopes are that a more structured partnership will eliminate some of the issues that have dogged the relationship between the two entities, especially as the provincial health department has been in crisis management for years.
Wits University has hundreds of staff and students training at seven hospitals in the province, as well as at the four major hospitals of Rahima Moosa, Helen Joseph, Chris Hani Baragwanath and Charlotte Maxeke in the greater Johannesburg area.
Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences Professor Shabir Madhi said: “The MOA will help to regulate the relationship with the Health Department and hospital managers to facilitate the delivery of quality teaching and training on the clinical training platforms as well as the conducting of globally recognised research, while paving the way for the provision of better healthcare services for patients.
“One of the challenges is that hospital management doesn’t have an adequate understanding, in many instances, of the role the university plays in those facilities, as well as the role of the university in employment and oversight of joint staff.”
The MOA will now allow for joint decision-making on appointments, recruitment, management and disciplining of joint staff; agreed acceptable standards of the clinical service platform to meet the requirements of academic activities; and the development of joint mechanisms to deal with constraints and challenges related to the clinical functioning at the hospitals.
The MOA, he added, would mean greater accountability by both parties, while finding improved internal avenues to resolve issues.
It will run for five years and is regarded as a “framework to combine resources, maximise output, and improve the quality and service of healthcare delivery, particularly with regards to clinical and academic activities”, said Gauteng Department of Health spokesperson Kwara Kekana.
Former Wits Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences Professor Martin Veller, who was involved in setting up previous versions of the MOA, warned that the success of any agreement hinges on will and commitment, capacity, continuity and filtering out political interference.
“There have been three previous iterations of this MOA…. it cannot fall apart when there is instability and administrations and MEC appointments change. We have to find a way to remove politics from hospital management.”
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