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KZN Health’s turnaround plan labelled an ‘attack on lives’

A cost-cutting plan drawn up by the financially struggling KZN Department of Health has been criticised by the SA Medical Association (SAMA), labour parties, employees and some political parties, and described as an “attack on human lives”.

The plan includes an immediate moratorium on jobs, and halting infrastructure maintenance projects and the procurement, servicing and repair of medical equipment.

The Sunday Tribune reports that last week, a provincial health portfolio committee undertook a fact-finding mission to Pietermaritzburg’s Northdale Hospital after allegations of overworked staff, major infrastructure challenges, including leaking roofs, and patients sleeping on floors. It is not the only public health facility with these problems.

Despite these, however, the department had circulated its cost-cutting plan last month, announcing that in November 2021, after reviewing its standing for the current financial year (ending March 31), and based on its spending trajectory, overspending would exceed R2,1bn.

Even after an allocation of R2,2bn, and a re-analysis in December, this figure would still hover around the R1,1bn mark.

The turnaround plan detailed when various categories of maintenance infrastructure projects could possibly be reactivated, including the procurement, servicing and repair of medical equipment, reports the Tribune. But no time frame was set for the lifting of the jobs moratorium.

Sibonelo Cele, provincial chairperson of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa), said the organisation rejected the proposal and that members “feared the consequences” of the plan.

“This is an attack on human lives because people will die due to the lack of nurses,” he said. He questioned whether the department had a proper human resources plan, and if so, why it wasn’t adhering to it.

The plan was also rejected by the South African Medical Association (SAMA), said spokesperson Dr Angelique Coetzee.

“In healthcare, it is wrong not to replace,” she said. “You only have to look at the patient load at hospitals or clinics to know that it is wrong.”

Claude Naiker, the Public Servants Association’s national manager, asked that the moratorium be lifted to “prevent the collapse of our health system”. It was unacceptable, he said, that instead of initiating measures to halt the department’s continuing trend of irregular expenditure, it had frozen vacancies.

He was referring to the latest auditor-general’s report showed irregular expenditure of nearly R1,7bn.

Dr Rishigen Viranna, a DA member of the provincial legislature and the party’s health spokesperson, blamed the department’s budgetary woes on “corruption and mismanagement”.

“This cost-cutting plan includes the non-filling of all posts, despite the A-G reporting that the rise in medico-legal cases against the department is due to a lack of staff,” he said.

Thokozile Gumede, the IFP’S health portfolio committee member and chairperson of the party’s Women’s Brigade in KZN, called the plan “a disaster in the making”. Gumede was among the delegation that visited Northdale Hospital, where she noted “staff and infrastructure were a huge challenge”.

Ntokozo Maphisa, spokesperson for the KZN DOH, told the Tribune: “The cost-containment measures the department has embarked on are part of a responsible and proactive approach through which future fiscal challenges will be averted. There is no crisis. In fact, there is a contingency plan in place to minimise the impact of these austerity measures and ensure continuity.”

 

Sunday Tribune Pressreader article – Job freeze is an attack on lives, says Denosa (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Bed shortage has patients sleeping on floors at Northdale Hospital, PMB

 

Pietermaritzburg hospital faces claims of poor treatment

 

KZN hospital 'tried to deceive' DA during visit

 

Scramble to fund nursing and medical intern posts

 

PAIA application to obtain details of KZN Health's medical volunteer policy

 

 

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