Health staff ‘frozen’

2014-09-09 00:00

HALFWAY through the financial year, the provincial Department of Health has put a hold on “unfreezing” posts.

According to a circular issued on August 20 by senior Health Department manager Dr Adri Mansvelder, the provincial health facilities “have had five months to unfreeze and create posts” for the 2014/15 financial year.

Mansvelder said “we now close the process to unfreeze and create posts … with immediate effect”.

The move impacts on the University of KwaZulu-Natal Nelson R. Mandela Medical School already taking strain due to the breakdown of the Joint Medical Establishment relationship that saw the Health Department fund undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at the school.

This led to freezing posts at the medical school — numbered over 300 either vacant or frozen — including heads of department.

The Witness has previously reported on the cancelling of the July intake of registrars to the medical school and the reduction of registrar numbers in the earlier January intake.

Now the 2015 January intake looks unlikely to take place, further impacting on specialist training programmes in the province as well as the specialist services the Health Department can offer the public

A source told The Witness it was estimated the provincial Health Department already operated with 20 to 30% less staff than required.

There are more than 300 vacancies currently listed on the department’s website. These range from medical officers in specialist units to anaesthetists, radiographers and professional nurses in a range of specialties including operating theatres, oncology and psychiatry.

The total provincial health budget for the current financial year is nearly R31 billion.

Questions were sent to two Health Department spokespersons on the number of posts filled in the first five months of the financial year and why the process had suddenly been frozen. They were also asked if the department was operating within budget.

No response had been received by the time of going to press.

DA spokesperson for health Dr Imran Keeka charged “the department is totally mismanaged”.

Keeka said it was not possible to give a figure for the number of posts either frozen or unfilled, as the department does not respond to questions. “We are not getting any information as they refuse to respond to parliamentary questions. The department is an authority unto itself and won’t give answers to those who are in a political oversight position.”

“There is no future planning with regard to budget,” he said.

“The problems are not going to get better; they are going to get worse.”

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