North West hospital's patients go vegetarian as money runs out

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Patients at a public hospital in Mahikeng will have to wait “until further notice” before they can have meat with their daily meals “due to non-availability of funds” by the troubled North West Health Department.

City Press reports that a 20 March memo at Mahikeng’s provincial and Bophelong hospitals, with the latter being a mental institution sharing the same property, explains that meals will only be served with vegetables from 21 March.

Department spokesperson, Tebogo Lekgethwane, said that head office was aware of the matter and that an explanation from their finance office indicated that the “inconvenience of meat shortage was largely due to the fact that some of the invoices of the supplier have not been paid on time due to the strike affecting, mainly, the provincial office. The strike has prevented invoices from being processed,” Lekgethwane said.

According to the report, it was noted recently that the department was experiencing some financial difficulties, which were explained in a letter to service providers by the chief financial officer on 9 February. The letter to service providers said that the department “apologises for not being able to pay your company for the remainder of this 2017/18 financial year, which ends in March, due to insufficient budget … your company’s invoices will be paid in April/May.”

The report says while the memo, signed by “acting food services manager KF Monare”, cites financial constraints as the source of their meat shortage, Lekgethwane gave a contradicting statement. “The invoices of food suppliers at hospitals have been prioritised despite the letter that was sent to service providers this year,” he said.

The report says employees at the provincial office have been on strike because of the scandals that rocked the department, including dubiously awarded contracts. Among those contracts was one awarded to Mediosa; a Gupta-linked company that received a R180m mobile clinic tender. The company was also paid R30m several months before it started breaking ground.

Striking employees were calling for the head of department, Dr Thabo Lekalakala, to be suspended after his signature was found on all the questionable transactions. Lekalakala was asked to take leave to allow an investigation, initiated by Premier Supra Mahumapelo, into the matter to be completed.

The same department has also been accused of using privately owned ambulances while about 40 new ambulances owned by the department were parked in the open in Mahikeng and Rustenburg.

City Press report

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