ARVs eat Health’s budget

2013-02-18 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal Health Department is to overspend the conditional grant on HIV/Aids by about R300 million at the end of next month, mainly because of higher prices of anti-retroviral drugs.

The department has meanwhile asked for additional funding from the national Department of Health, from savings made by other provinces in the HIV and Aids conditional grant.

The financial expenditure report for the period ending in December, tabled in the health portfolio committee in the KZN Legislature last week, states that the provincial department was allocated R2,2 billion to fight the pandemic in the financial year ending in March.

As at December, R1,8 billion had been spent, translating to 85% of the allocated budget in the conditional grant. The department’s report blamed the overexpenditure on the high costs of ARV drugs.

The department said increased costs of ARV medications and micro-nutrients for the HIV/Aids programme would lead to a projected overspend on its budget of about R296,635 million.

Department spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi yesterday downplayed the overexpenditure, saying the national department would come to its assistance.

“The national department is going to assist the province.

“That projected overexpenditure then becomes negative,” Mkhwanazi said, adding that the expenditure had been due to month-to-month purchasing of ARVs.

He also said the national department would buy ARVs to offset the projected overexpenditure.

There was also an increase in the prices of vaccines, municipal rates and service charges, and increased demands by patients at primary health care institutions.

The report also projected R15,4 million overexpenditure in emergency medical services due to overtime claims, fluctuating fuel costs and an increase in travelling and subsistence costs.

It also said the department saved R101 million due to delays in the tender processes for laundry equipment and vehicles, among other expenses.

Mark Heywood of the Treatment Action Campaign last year described the effects of the ongoing overspending at the department as a crisis and pointed out that the budgetary recommendations by integrated support teams, which were made public in 2010 by Minister of Health Aaron Motsolaedi, continued to be ignored.

Heywood wrote in the 2012 National Strategic Plan review that “it has become clearer than ever that the crisis of overspend is overwhelmingly one of management rather than a shortage of funds.”

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