Striking unhealthy for SWC
Cape Town - Emergency staff on strike and budget constraints are among the concerns and challenges confronting the health department as it puts final touches to its preparations for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
A strike by staff would leave the department hard pressed to cope in the event of an emergency, its 2010 World Cup director, Peter Fuhri, warned members of Parliament's health portfolio committee on Wednesday.
"Our concern with EMS (emergency medical services) is really that the emergency care practitioner OSD (occupational specific dispensation) has not come out as favourably as some of them would have expected, and our concern there is the issue of strikes during (the World Cup)."
"So we are discussing this very closely with unions (and) the labour organisations to encourage staff not to strike during that period, or to even think about it."
"Because... if the EMS goes on strike, we are looking at strategies, but we are going to be hard pressed to cover our responsibilities in terms of emergency medical services," he said.
The department is tasked with providing infrastructure for a comprehensive medical service, including 24-hour emergency medical treatment and disaster management in the host cities during the 2010 World Cup.
Fuhri also told MPs the department was facing budget challenges, which had delayed its 2010 preparations.
"Budget has been an ongoing problem right from 2006. Unfortunately, Treasury decided to put the budget into the (provinces') equitable share, rather than ring-fencing it, or putting it as a conditional grant."
"So a lot of the money that was destined for 2010, never got to 2010... This has been one of the problems that has delayed us a lot in terms of our preparations, because anything we do costs money... whether it's equipment, personnel on overtime and so forth."
"And this remains a challenge, even today. We have discussed this with Treasury, and obviously the answer is there's no more money. So we have to use whatever we have within the confines of the existing budgets of the provinces."
Speaking to journalists during a break in proceedings, he said the department had asked for a budget of R320m, but received R30m.
But speaking later at the briefing, the department's acting deputy director-general of health planning, Carol Marshall, downplayed Fuhri's budget worries.
She said the original budget had been based on a "greenfields" approach and had not taken into account resources already in the system.
While two years ago it was true that money earmarked for 2010 in provinces' equitable share had not always been committed for that purpose, the department was now "organising its resources in a much more integrated way to make sure we meet demands".
This included the provinces.
"What is happening today is that they are putting the resources they do have on the table in order for us to meet the requirements we have."
Marshall conceded, however, that the department had hoped for more money.
"We did have this fond idea that this would be an opportunity for us to access a large amount of additional resources to those that we already had, and what we've had to do is rather improve the efficiency with which we use resources," she said.
Fuhri said the department's preparations for the World Cup kick-off, 92 days from now, were nearing completion.
"By May 15, we will have to be operational in terms of 2010 mode," he said.