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THE national Department of Health intends taking over South Africa’s 10 biggest hospitals — including the world-renowned Groote Schuur in Cape Town — as some provincial governments lack capacity to manage them, says Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
The funding and administration of hospitals is a provincial responsibility, but in some provinces — including Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Limpopo — the public health system has virtually collapsed and hospitals struggle to provide basic levels of care.
Dr Motsoaledi said that 10 hospitals earmarked for administration by his department were "national assets" that had suffered under provincial governments.
Most of them were teaching hospitals, but the training of young doctors was "jeopardised" whenever a provincial health department faced collapse.
"If the province collapses — like the Eastern Cape is about to — these hospitals suffer," he said.
However, the hospitals earmarked for national administration include some of the best-run in the country, particularly Groote Schuur Hospital and Tygerberg Hospital in the Western Cape.
Gauteng has four hospitals earmarked for national administration: Steve Biko, George Mukhari, Charlotte Maxeke and Chris Hani Baragwanath.
Universitas Hospital in the Free State, Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal’s King Edward VIII Hospital and Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital will also be run from Pretoria.
The decision to remove responsibility from provincial governments was taken at the African National Congress (ANC) conference in Mangaung earlier this month.
Democratic Alliance health spokeswoman Patricia Kopane said that Dr Motsoaledi should "leave alone things that are not broken".
She said she was shocked at the intention to include Groote Schuur Hospital and Tygerberg Hospital, as there was "no crisis in the Western Cape".
It was the only province that had obtained a clean audit for the past three years, which showed that it was capable of running an administration "very well", Ms Kopane said.
"I think the minister is just playing politics — he must focus on where the ANC governs because that’s where the problems are."
The Gauteng health department was plagued by power failures and neglect to pay suppliers, while a lack of service delivery in the Eastern Cape and a lack of doctors and equipment in Limpopo meant those provinces faced "serious problems" that required them to be placed under national administration, Kopane said.