No lifeboat for Gauteng health, hospital suppliers

2011-12-11 08:24

The DA once called for Gauteng Health MEC Ntombi Mekgwe to chain herself to the door of the national Treasury and not leave until she got a bailout to pay hundreds of hospital suppliers.

It could be a long chaining session if Mekgwe decided to do it.

Cabinet made it clear this week that the embattled department should forget about any bailouts from the national Treasury.

Gauteng’s health department owes its hospital suppliers R2.5 billion. Some of the claims date as far back as 2005.

As the issue escalates, hospital suppliers are being forced to cut down on staff to keep their companies afloat.

One supplier, who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation, said her company had reached a point where the only option to survive was to retrench staff.

“We are a very small company. These non-payments are severely affecting our cash flow. We are unable to meet our commitments and pay staff.

“If no solution is reached on this issue, we will be forced to retrench more people or probably close shop,” she said.

Another supplier, who is owed more than R500 000 by the department, said if things continued this way, he might also have to retrench a few members of his staff.

“What I find ironic with this situation is that the national government is telling companies to create jobs for people. On the other hand, the provincial government is forcing small companies to close down because of non-payment.”

Health department spokesperson Simon Zwane acknowledged that the impact of non-payment was severe for small companies.

“As one of the interventions, the department has committed to prioritising payments due to small and medium businesses. All companies owed less than R1 million will be paid from the R200 million made available by the provincial finance department,” he said.

Zwane said going forward, more money to pay suppliers would be made available from various provincial departments.

About R400 million is expected to be released by the departments in April next year.

Provincial DA caucus leader Jack Bloom welcomed the contribution from other departments, but said it was not enough.

“Already, companies are refusing to supply hospitals, and patients are the ones who suffer.

“The dialysis unit at Helen Joseph Hospital, for instance, is using impure water because the company that sterilises the water has not been paid,” Bloom said.

Zwane could not immediately confirm if this was indeed the case.

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