Thursday, 30 May, 2024
HomeSouth AfricaSANDF’s military hospitals now ‘in intensive care’

SANDF’s military hospitals now ‘in intensive care’

The SA National Defence Force’s military hospitals have fallen into disrepair, mired in mismanagement, waste and possible corruption amounting to billions of rands, reports Vrye Weekblad.

The Sunday Times, drawing on an investigation first published in Vrye Weekblad and written by Erika Gibson, writes that upgrades of 1 Military Hospital at Thaba Tshwane, Pretoria, as well as the military hospitals in Bloemfontein and Cape Town (3 Military Hospital and 2 Military Hospital) have been dragging on since 2005, with none completed.

The SANDF paid private hospitals R182m between 2010 and 2020 to provide services that should have been rendered by military services. The defence budget pins these expenses for the next two years until March 2022 at R261.7m and R708m respectively.

Shortly before the COVID pandemic struck, the SANDF and Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) signed a memorandum of understanding to appoint the bank as the implementation agent sorting out the mess the hospitals found themselves in. In effect the DBSA acted as middleman for three years, outsourcing the work for “agent fees” of R10m for each R150m spent. The defence force has to pay in advance for each project.

The defence force, meanwhile, has remained silent for years on the findings of a forensic investigation into wastage and other irregularities linked to the upgrading contracts. The joint standing committee on defence has tried in vain to get answers.

According to the defence forceʼs version of events, the untenable situation regarding hospitals, other military buildings and general decay has its roots in a clash between the defence force and the Department of Public Works over the upgrade of 1 Military Hospital in particular.

This eventually resulted in the defence force using its own works formation around 2015 to take over from the department of public works. The hospital, however, still didn't function properly. Trolleys did not fit through theatre doors and the oxygen was not of theatre standard. Despite reconstruction of the roof, leakages caused extensive damage.

It did not help matters that the former surgeon-general, Lt-Gen Veejay Ramlakan, allegedly used a large amount of the hospital budget for a clinic, living quarters and helicopter landing pad at Nkandla. Ramlakan was booted out in 2017 by then head of the army Gen Solly Shoke because of his involvement in the Nkandla project.

Last year Ramlakan died of a heart attack, and Shoke retired at the end of last month.

The taxpayer forked out billions of rand for these works. Completion of the project at 1 Military alone will cost a further R1.2bn.

Last year, when COVID-19 broke out, the DBSA rushed in and within months completed a 40-bed ICU and 60-bed COVID isolation ward at 1 Military Hospital at a cost of about R151m.

The work was awarded by closed tender to security construction company SA Fence & Gate. According to project documents the company used subcontractors as “professional agents”. Fence & Gate has been implicated in controversial Prasa tenders, where tenders were either awarded irregularly or maintenance work was not completed.

Between 2006 and 2009 a total of R860m was paid over to Public Works for the work. The 1 Military Hospital project was “completed” in 2011 after nearly R480m was spent. The remainder was mostly spent on the upgrading of 2 Military Hospital.

There, were, however, considerable problems, including dysfunctional equipment, a leaking roof and that apparently no medical equipment was included in expenses calculations and will have to be procured at a further R600m;

The defence force, therefore, decided in 2015 to discontinue the services of Public Works. It asked the CSIR for an overview of deficiencies, defects and essentials.

A private contractor was tasked with redesigning the first floor, including the pharmacy and laboratories. This process lasted another 20 months. Yet another private specialist contractor was appointed to decide what medical equipment was needed. These two contractors cost the defence force R51m.

The DAʼs Kobus Marais said the defence force was abdicating its responsibility for building maintenance to a civilian entity that had no understanding of the defence force environment. And, in the process, a parallel entity was being established at extra cost before the problems with the former department and divisions within the defence force had been addressed.


Full Sunday Times story (Restricted access)


See also from the MedicalBrief archives:


SA Military Health Service in not well, SANDF says


Task team to address SANDF complaints


SANDF tackles mass exodus of doctors

MedicalBrief — our free weekly e-newsletter

We'd appreciate as much information as possible, however only an email address is required.