Durban - A parliamentary committee says the high vacancy rate at the troubled Addington Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal has negatively impacted healthcare in the province.The select committee on social services on Wednesday said the high vacancy rate of medical professionals had a direct link and impact on the quality of healthcare services rendered to the public.The vacancy rate of medical specialists at the hospital currently stands at 29% and the vacancy rate for medical officers is at 28%. The hospital has a further 38% vacancy rate for its heads of clinical units and a 14% professional nurse vacancy rate.READ: DA fails to lay charges against health minister, MECChairperson of the committee Cathy Dlamini said the statistics were alarming in the context of the workload that the current staff complement have to carry."The committee reiterates its view that filling of vacancies within the health portfolio must be prioritised. It cannot be that the freezing of posts occurs even at hospital level because the issues dealt with at these institutions are matters of life and death."Decentralise appointment of personnelDlamini said the knock-on effect of the high vacancy rate at Addington Hospital has been that only 545 beds are utilised on the 571-bed hospital.She said that the workload on the limited staff is abnormally high which impacts on the service rendered."While the committee is in no way suggesting that poor quality of services at hospitals is acceptable, the underlying causes must be resolved."The committee said there was a need to decentralise and delegate the appointment of medical personnel to hospital level. This would speed up the process of filling vacancies, it said.The committee also emphasised the need for Premier Willis Mchunu and provincial treasury not to freeze posts that become vacant either due to retirement, death or resignation.READ: 'You will have to drag me out,' DA shadow minister locked out of KZN oncology unitFurthermore, it said it was concerned that hospitals continue to face challenges in relations to lengthy supply chain processes which have a negative effect on services.The committee welcomed the assurance by MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo a forensic investigation on the company that supplied oncology machines was underway.The committee said it would monitor the progress of the investigation.Dlamini said the issue of ageing and inadequate infrastructure was also concerning."While it is a known fact that majority of hospitals are utilising ageing infrastructure, detailed maintenance plans are necessary to increase the lifespan of the infrastructure," she said.SA Human Rights Commission feedbackDlamini said the presentation to the committee did not cover the South African Human Rights Commission report on the Oncology section of the Addington Hospital."While the MEC provided a written report and gave assurances that he will be available to answer questions by the committee, there was a general feeling that the department missed an opportunity to bring the committee into confidence on where the department was at in resolving challenges raised by the SAHRC."The 68-page SAHRC report found: "The delays in the provision of‚ and in some cases the denial of‚ oncology services to cancer patients‚ some of whom are destitute and in need of health care‚ affects them in a most fundamental way."Dhlomo said that poor human resources and supply chain management largely contributed to the crisis. The province was left with no oncologists and gaps in upper management this year.The Democratic Alliance, however, has called on Dhlomo to step down as MEC for health saying the numerous downfalls in provincial healthcare should be his responsibility.Dlamini said the committee would engage further on the oncology crisis in the province and has scheduled a site visit to Addington Hospital on Thursday to get first-hand information.