Health department sticks to budget

2010-11-04 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health is set to remain within its budget this year for the first time in more than a decade — thanks to a high-level turnaround plan.

Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo released his six-month service delivery report in the provincial­ legislature yesterday, indicating that R9,6 billion, less than half of the department’s R21 billion allocation, had been spent so far.

Under previous MEC Peggy Nkonyeni, the Department of Health’s overexpediture was close to R2 billion.

“Major financial management and governance reforms have improved expenditure planning, increased accountability and instilled fiscal discipline,” said Dhlomo­.

Part of the turnaround strategy involved taking swift action against corrupt staff members, and 377 cases of fraud and corruption had been recorded by the end of June.

The department has set up a special investigative unit to speed up cases and this was working closely with the Hawks and the police.

“By the time we suspend the staff members, we have a very clean case against them so it doesn’t take us longer than two months to bring charges against them,” said Dhlomo­.

So far, eight staff members have been fired, six have received final written warnings and nine others have resigned.

The former head of department Dr Busi Nyembezi and financial officer­ Sipho Buthelezi are among those who have been arrested in connection with tender fraud amounting to some R200 million.

Dhlomo paid tribute to Nyembezi­’s successor, Dr Sibongile Zungu, for driving the turnaround strategy.

According to Zungu, there has been “an array of fraud”, but that mostly involved theft linked to the supply-chain management. However, some involved staff misrepresenting their qualifications.

The department had streamlined its supplier base and was in the process of completing its asset register.

Despite the huge strides made to address the province’s management weaknesses, Dhlomo reported that a shortage of key health workers was still a major stumbling block to service delivery.

Almost three quarters (73,7%) of pharmacists’ posts — some 1 190 posts— remain vacant. More than seven in 10 medical specialists’ posts (72,4%) and over half of doctors’ posts (52,4%) are vacant.

The province is also short of 4 424 professional nurses, who are the backbone of the health system — a vacancy rate of 28,4%.

“You advertise the posts and wait, but sometimes the people are just not there to fill them,” said Dhlomo.

Despite financial pressures, one third of all patients receiving antiretroviral medication countrywide are located in this province. Currently, over 345 000 patients are receiving ARVs. However, some 88 000 additional patients initially enrolled for treatment have been lost — either dying, defaulting or disappearing.

The province’s HIV testing campaign launched in April has tested 710 000 people and only one-fifth were HIV-positive.

Meanwhile, the department has managed to cut by almost half the rate at which HIV-positive mothers transmit the virus to their babies, down from 16% to 8,8%.

Describing tuberculosis as a “crisis”, Dhomo said almost 30 000 cases had been diagnosed by August­ and that the cure rate was 63,7%.

“The complexities attached to healthcare delivery, coupled with the challenges of a seriously constrained financial environment, exacerbate the challenges we face in rendering services,” said Dhlomo.

“Nonetheless, we are achieving substantial successes in many areas­.”

— Health-e News Service.


Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.