DURBAN, 19 August – KwaZulu-Natal’s dysfunctional public health department can be blamed on a systematic breakdown of core functions, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Friday.
“There is a gross lack of management skills in the department of health because managing human resources, managing supply chain, managing procurement systems — need skills. Those skills are just found wanting. The wrong systems altogether are used,” he said speaking at a press briefing at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban.
“The biggest problem is the issue of human resources, the planning of human resources. The development and management of human resources has not been going very well and is the root cause of this crisis that is causing all these specialists to leave.”
Premier Willies Mchunu, health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo, and finance MEC Belinda Scott also attended the briefing.
The province’s health service crisis was highlighted when the South African Human Rights Commission made damning allegations against the department for its failure to manage a growing exodus of oncologists, and failing to fix two radiation machines at Addington Hospital. This led to exceptionally long waiting periods for cancer treatment at other hospitals.
Motsoaledi said it was not only oncologists who were leaving the province’s department, but that specialists were leaving “across the board”.
He said the second big problem was procurement as the manner in which procurement was done “had been found wanting”.
“It is not only the procurement of oncology equipment, it is the procurement of even consumables,” he said.
He said that at some of Gauteng’s hospitals, CEO’s had delegations of up to R500,000, but in KZN CEO’s only had delegations of up to R200,000.
“In essence, the only autonomy a CEO can exercise in buying or repairing equipment is for R30,000,” he said.
Solutions to the province’s health crisis were thus centred on human resources and procurement, he said, and not on malfunctioning machinery at Addington. The department would, however, be replacing the machines, he said.
Motsoaledi said Mchunu, Scott, Dhlomo and the University of KwaZulu-Natal agreed to put together a package of human resources needs for the department “which would enable the basic services to be maintained”.
Costing would be finalised within the next two weeks. Motsoaledi said that recommendations made in a forensic audit into the department would be implemented “with immediate effect”, as they gave clear guidelines on what needed to be done.
Scott and the national health department would take over procurement in the provincial department “until things stabilise”.