Budget crisis hits Northdale

2008-08-10 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL Health Department’s budget woes continue to inconvenience patients going to some hospitals hoping for treatment.

Shortages of essential medical supplies and beds are a direct result of budgetary constraints arising from over-expenditure by the department during the 2007/08 financial year.

Last Tuesday, some patients at Northdale Hospital waited in wheelchairs for more than five hours for beds.

KZN Health MEC Peggy Nkonyeni recently admitted that the department is operating under a tight budget.

The Witness reported that the department has failed to pay some of its service providers. In a statement during her address to the members of the provincial legislature’s Health portfolio committee, Nkonyeni said hospital managers cannot deliver services due to budget constraints.

“Sometimes we cannot pay, or are forced to delay paying, our service providers because of the budget constraints,” she said.

It is alleged that casualty patients are made to sit and wait in wheelchairs for hospital beds for up to eight hours.

Health Department spokesman Leon Mbangwa said the department is underfunded.

“This is the reality of ever-increasing demands on health care services,” he said.

Mbangwa admits that the available beds are not enough to cater for the hospital’s patients.

“There are instances where the hospital experiences a shortage of beds due to high patient load,” he said.

However, he added: “Patients are never made to wait in wheelchairs because there is a medical admission area that was established to assist casualty in decongesting patients.”

He also denied that the hospital is running short of medical supplies.

“The hospital has adequate supplies to meet patient needs. It is totally untrue that ECGs [electro-cardiograms, for measuring heart function] are in short supply”.

Mbangwa also said the department is understaffed. “The staff shortages are in an acute state, which is a matter that our minister is addressing through bilateral agreements with developed countries.”

sandilez@witness.co.za

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