KZN facing health funding crisis

Pietermaritzburg - If the KwaZulu-Natal health department’s request for its current budget to be extended by a further R1.6bn is turned down, elective procedures may be put on hold and state hospitals will only provide emergency services.

Provincial director-general Sibongile Zungu painted a bleak picture in the event of the funding not being received, saying there would have to be drastic and unpleasant actions.

The amount requested is in addition to the R28bn budget allocated to the department earlier this financial year.

A report tabled to the health portfolio committee last week said of the R1.6bn, R732m was requested from the provincial Treasury and R950m from national Treasury.

Backlogs

Of the requested amount, R332m was to be spent on paying accruals and to attend to critical needs such as backlogs in maintenance, McCord Hospital, ambulances and medical equipment.

A further R400m was requested to strengthen tender procedures, absorb nursing staff, registrars and health professionals, filling critical posts for new clinics and intensive care units, and to fund trainees in Cuba.

They hope to spend the other R950m on infrastructure projects and HIV/Aids programmes.

“It will be critical not to implement planned activities in order to remain within the budget,” she said, adding that such a move would put pressures on the department’s budget in the following financial years.

In its report, the department said it was not clear how much it would receive from Treasury, but there were contingency plans in place.

In the event the department received the funds, Zungu said, it would contain costs and use limited resources effectively, strengthen tender processes and identify savings, prevent fraud and corruption and ensure optimal use of its employees.

But, if no funding was received, there would be no new employees except for critical posts, there would be delays in infrastructure projects that are under way and they would have to defer the decision to acquire new equipment and vehicles.

“We will start with infrastructure procurement for certain equipment like vehicles,” Zungu said.

She also said the filling of posts would be limited at a time when the department faced a serious challenge of poaching of its personnel.

“We have been going slowly on the filling of vacant posts. We are keeping a careful eye on the compensation of employees. We are becoming more vigilant and fill fewer positions,” Zungu said.

Support for request

Democratic Alliance spokesperson for health Mark Steele said the DA hoped that Treasury would bail out the department, which was already projecting over-expenditure in this financial year.

“One can only hope that Treasury will be able to accommodate them, otherwise we are to see further reductions in infrastructure,” Steel said.

He also said the department should look at efficiency of its operations so as to keep within its budget.

Busi Mohlaka of the IFP said when there were shortfalls in the department, there were bound to be problems in the provision of services, adding that they supported the request for additional funding, but the department should use the money efficiently.

Treasury could not be reached for comment.

The department is now pinning its hopes for additional allocation on the adjustment budget to be made by Treasury later this year.


 
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