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Gauteng Health too broke to fight third wave

Gauteng Health’s efforts to stem the COVID-19 third wave are being thwarted by a cash crunch, with government calling on the private sector to help, reports MedicalBrief.

This follows several COVID-19 related scandals in Gauteng last year, including irregular payments of millions of rands for dodgy PPE contracts and school sanitation, reports Sunday Times Daily.

It has been established that:

Government is engaging NGOs such as Right to Care and Gift of the Givers to come on board to assist “troubled” Gauteng.

The R100m budget available to fully refurbish Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg, after it closed in April after a fire, is unlikely to be enough.

First Rand Bank gave R1.5m for renovations at Charlotte Maxeke, which is being spent on fire doors and dry wall. The Solidarity Fund has also contributed.

FNB and RMB provided 12 buses to transport patients and healthcare professionals to various hospitals in Gauteng during April and May.

There is no money to place 280 medical student interns, who could potentially ease the strain of critical staff shortages at state hospitals in Gauteng.

The health department is hoping “colleagues” in the health industry will volunteer their time at state hospitals, as there is no money to pay them.

It has also approached the Solidarity Fund to pay for additional nurses needed to man COVID-19 beds.

Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi told the Sunday Times that there was no money for additional beds and staff in Gauteng.

“Unfortunately we do not have a budget. We were hoping that some of the colleagues would volunteer. We are looking at various areas – there are conversations with the Solidarity Fund to assist, and in Gauteng they are looking at additional nurses to help us with the surge.”

While she did not know exactly how many nurses would be needed to restore stability at hospitals, “we are hoping for about 480 [from Solidarity] and hoping they can come quickly”.

The minister said administrative staff shortages were also preventing plans from being properly implemented.

To address this issue, acting HOD of the Eastern Cape health department Sibongile Zungu has been seconded to Gauteng. Zungu was last year seconded to the Eastern Cape from the office of Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

“She will come and act as HOD in Gauteng until they can stabilise the system,” Kubayi said, adding that it was an “indictment” that student doctors needing to do their community service were not being placed.

Sunday Times Daily reported last week that 288 junior doctors due to begin their two-year internship had not yet received a posting. They are all fully qualified but unemployed and unable to work in the health sector without completing a mandatory internship at a public health facility in SA, allocated to them by the health department.

“I have asked the team to explain to me the story of the student doctors … who have not been placed because apparently there is no money,” Kubayi said. “It does not make sense to me. Every year, surely we should know we have this amount of students ready to be placed where there is a shortage.”

Gauteng infrastructure MEC Tasneem Motara said that while the oncology unit at Charlotte Maxeke would open on Monday, there was no deadline for the rest of the hospital.

“Every year the department of health budgets for maintenance of its facilities. This year it budgeted R100m [for Charlotte Maxeke] and that is what we have [to use for the refurbishment after the fire].


Full Sunday Times story (Restricted access)


See also from the MedicalBrief archives:


Oncology at Charlotte Maxeke to open following SAHRC intervention


Slow-payer Gauteng Health owes R1.2bn to over 800 companies


Gauteng’s 3rd Wave: Crippled public hospitals put ’severe strain’ on private facilities

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