Millions to pay for staff on sick leave

2017-06-22 13:45
R5,6 million spent on 25 absent health officials.

R5,6 million spent on 25 absent health officials. (File)

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With the province in the midst of a health crisis, it has been revealed that the Health Department has spent R5,6 million to pay 25 sick or suspended staff since 2016.

This comes after the South African Human Rights Commission released a damning report that found the Health Department failed to provide “adequate oncology services” to state patients.

A response to parliamentary questions sent by DA MP Dr Imran Keeka to the department has revealed that it has spent millions on staff who were on sick leave since the start of 2016, with some being booked off for over 400 days.

Those on sick leave within the department have missed a total of 4 585 days collectively.

Keeka said the department had spent the R5,6 million on 25 sick or suspended health officials.

The response said 16 staff within the department had taken 3 490 days off due to alleged ill health and the department has paid them R4,9 million since the start of 2016.

Six employees have been paid out more than R400 000 each to date and most of the staff listed in the department’s response have been off sick for more than 100 days, with one staff member on sick leave for 520 days.

The response showed another has been off for 417 days.

Keeka said in several instances the reasons for being absent are very serious and include end-stage kidney failure, liver failure, amputation, psychosis and strokes.

However, in the response, not all reasons for sick leave were detailed with some filled out as “medical conditions” or left blank.

Keeka added that he was “appalled” at the amount of time the department takes to medically board staff who have been ill for months and in some instances, years.

Keeka said the response also included details for suspended staff, with nine employees costing the department R759 000 despite not being at their posts for a combined total of 1 095 days.

“These statistics show that while the department is struggling to find the funds to deliver proper health services, the Health MEC [Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo] is turning a blind eye to massive wasteful expenditure,” said Keeka.

“In terms of the law, individuals are entitled to 30 days (or 36 days) in every three-year employment cycle.

“If the employee uses up all his available sick leave at the beginning of the cycle, or during a cycle, then he has no more sick leave available for the balance of those 36 months — and therefore any further requirement will be taken as unpaid leave. It is clear that the department’s reporting systems are not working and the buck stops with the MEC,” he said.

Keeka said in terms of the Policy and Procedure on Ill Health and Retirement (PPILH), management is expected to wrap up cases of extended sick leave so they do not become a “financial noose around the department’s neck”.

“That it has not done so speaks volumes about endemic negligence and a complete lack of will,” said Keeka.

“Perhaps even more worrying is that while many of these staff can no longer fulfil their roles at work, they also cannot be replaced.

“This is undoubtedly having an enormous impact on service delivery, not to mention the morale of other staff who must carry the additional load.”

He said the figures in the reply raise “serious questions” around Dhlomo’s ability to lead the Health Department.

“At best, he is aware of these outstanding cases and has chosen to sit on his hands as usual.

“At worst, he simply does not care that his already cash-strapped department is spending money where it needn’t be.”

Keeka said the DA expects the MEC to act immediately to reduce the number of staff who are being paid every month while they are unable to work.

The Department of Health did not respond to queries.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  kzn health department

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