THE Eastern Cape health system could be weeks from collapse because of "austerity measures” and under-budgeting.
Doctors and NGOs say a moratorium on the appointment of doctors in the province has resulted in already overburdened doctors having to attend to hundreds of patients a day; constant shortages of life-saving medicine are threatening patients’ lives, and widespread administration bungles have led to many doctors going unpaid for months.
Junior Doctors Association of South Africa president Dr Mbulelo Diba called on the Department of Health yesterday to take over running the provincial department to avoid a crisis.
Diba’s call comes after 30 doctors from one region in the Eastern Cape were not paid last month and 6900 community workers who get a R1500 stipend to work at the province’s clinics were also not paid last month.
So critical is the situation that senior ANC officials met the South African Medical Association’s Dr Phophi Ramathuba yesterday to find an urgent solution.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said he had been given assurances by the province that doctors would be paid.
The provincial department’s Sizwe Kupelo admitted problems in paying staff was at crisis point.
He admitted to difficulties appointing staff despite severe doctor shortages across the province, and that this could be attributed to administrative issues and "austerity measures”.
In December last year, the provincial treasury ordered the department to freeze new appointments and cut back on spending to avoid exceeding its budget.
Provincial treasury spokesman Nosisa Sogayise said they had been forced to intervene after the department continued to employ people in unfunded positions.
Kupelo said the hiring of critical new staff had to be approved by the treasury, causing months- long delays in filling the posts.
In a joint statement yesterday, four NGOs asked the treasury to immediately approve the payment of all replacement staff in posts that had been budgeted for.
"Any further delay in filling essential posts will cause irreparably damage to healthcare delivery in the Eastern Cape for years to come,” they said.