MEC says funds may only last until February

Gauteng MEC for health Hope Papo
Gauteng MEC for health Hope Papo

GAUTENG health department's finances are once again teetering on the brink of collapse as needs exceed the budget.

Added to the R5.7-billion unauthorised expenditure it must answer to in the coming weeks, the department has now admitted that it expects to run out of money by February next year.

MEC Hope Papo revealed this on Friday during a health committee meeting, despite the department being allocated a R24.5-billion budget.

Papo said that the department was unable to meet some of its obligations as it was receiving far less money than it required.

Documents which were the subject of Friday's meeting and which Sowetan has seen show that the department gets a monthly allocation of about R350-million while it says it actually needs R650-million.

This, the department revealed in its responses to questions from members of the health committee, was "the main reason for the non-payment of invoices within 30 days".

Documents from the committee meeting also show that the cash crunch is severely hampering the department's ability to provide basic necessities like clean linen.

This is because health facilities use "redundant equipment" and the department notes that "out of 192 machines (including boilers), 102 (52%) machines are not operational and 92 are operational with a laundry efficiency rate of 52%".

"This means that only 52% of the daily demand for clean linen from health institutions can be met.

"In order to sustain continuous linen services using the current equipment, overtime needs to be worked continuously," the department said in its responses to the committee while revealing it spent R14.9-million on overtime.

In May last year, R85-million was allocated to upgrade laundry machinery. Two projects were completed at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital (R16.6-million) and Johannesburg laundry (R15.4-million) while tenders at Masakhane and Dunswart laundry are expected to be completed in March.

The department has made some headway after paying off debts amounting to R4.22-billion since April this year, but "some level of fraud and corruption" has contributed to budget overspending, as well as "misconduct related to abuse of commuted overtime".