21 April 2019


Lawmakers welcome health department turnaround strategy

by: Keorapetse Mosipidi Namhla Luhabe and Nthusang Lefafa   date: 08 june 2018

The Provincial Legislature’s Portfolio Committee on Health and Social Development has welcomed a turnaround strategy aimed at addressing challenges at Bokone Bophirima’s Department of Health.
The strategy and status report on Section 100 (1)(b) intervention were presented by the Administrator of Health in the province, Jeannette Hunter. The Health department was put under full administration following Cabinet’s approval after strike action led by the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) brought healthcare services in the province to a standstill. 
Invoking Section 100 (1)(b) means that the department now reports directly to the Minister of Health through the Administrator for a period of 18 months, pending approval of extension of the time frame by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). 

An inter-ministerial task team led by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is overseeing the work of Administrators in different government departments in the province. 
Some of the remedies Hunter came up with for the Health department include the establishment of a strong executive and senior management team that will lead in full implementation of the department’s mandate in healthcare facilities and revive all internal and external communication structures. 
“We will also develop a strategy for proactive maintenance of hospital equipment and improve pharmaceutical services to ensure direct delivery of medicine to healthcare centres,” said Hunter.

The intervention team also aims to establish a stable labour environment, implement an improved organisational structure for service delivery and investigate all the contracts in order to address irregularities. 
“The team will develop and implement an accrual management strategy, debt management strategy and complete costing of public healthcare and hospital package of service,” said Hunter.
Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Health and Social Development, Madoda Sambatha, welcomed the turnaround strategy and said it was important to relook some outsourced services.
“It is important that the department moves away from privatization of essential services because this nearly collapsed the entire department. We urge the administrator to ‘de-tenderise’ the department because not only did these contracts compromise the functions of the department’s head office, but affected district and tertiary hospitals and clinics through transversal contracts on coal, catering, laundry and emergency services,” said Sambatha. 
He said the administrator should find permanent solutions to ensure that the healthcare system in the province is restored. 
Amongst others, the task team was mandated to restore trust and confidence between labour and government to stabilise the labour environment, restore sustainable service delivery, ensure safety of staff and improve financial management. 
Administrator Hunter said some of the current challenges in the department include high accruals in operation budgeting running out as early as September 2017, discontinuation of certain healthcare services due to lack of budget, staff shortages including high vacancy rate in critical clinical, management and operational posts in hospitals and clinics and poor building maintenance in public healthcare facilities.

“In the Finance Directorate, there is poor financial controls and non-payment of suppliers and frequent violation of supply chain regulations. There is non-payment of performance incentives for staff and the departmental organisational structure is not in line with the service delivery package resulting in unaccountable organisation,” said Hunter.

Regarding facility based services, she said only 39 percent of public healthcare facilities in the province were fully functional in terms of the Ideal Clinic Framework and there was poor management of patient records in facilities.