Hospitals fail to put health first

Apart from being obligated to deliver on the state's healthcare mandate, institutions such as Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital have a responsibility to carefully prioritise their budgets.

Apart from being obligated to deliver on the state's healthcare mandate, institutions such as Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital have a responsibility to carefully prioritise their budgets.

This obligation essentially calls on hospital managements to ensure that every cent is spent on prioritising primary healthcare and treatment over secondary items.

Any service-delivery lapses - as recently witnessed at Baragwanath hospital, where a shortage of cot-beds resulted in newborn babies being kept in cardboard boxes - can only compromise this mandate.

The Health Department has rightly blamed management deficiencies at Chris Hani-Baragwanath, the biggest hospital in Africa, for the lapses.

The hospital management's decision to prioritise telephone bills and furniture over hospital medical equipment is inexplicable.

A task team appointed by provincial and national health departments revealed that from its R1,1billion budget the hospital spent R9,4million on telephone accounts and set aside R7million for office equipment. Compared with the mere R7million allocated for medical equipment, this figure paints a confusing picture about the hospital management's spending priorities.

And it suggests a lack of proper oversight over management expenditure at some hospitals.

This requires attention.

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