37000 health posts are vacant

Empty hospital corridor, waiting chairs and bed
Empty hospital corridor, waiting chairs and bed
Image: 123RF/Lucian Coman

South Africa has not filled over 37 000 posts in the public health sector, with Limpopo topping the list.

This is contained in a series of reports on the state of health in provinces by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), based on monitoring efforts which took place from November 2017 until this year.

According to the report, Limpopo had over 44 000 funded posts. Only 35 450 are filled with close to 10 000 left unfilled by February 2017.

Other worst affected provinces include KZN, with 8904 vacant posts, while the Free State had 4101 and Gauteng stood at 6100 posts.

The TAC blamed the situation on factors such as the freezing of posts by provincial departments, difficulty getting specialists and staff members who either retire or leave the system in search of greener pastures in the private sector.

Yesterday, TAC Limpopo chairman Moses Makhomisani said he handed the report over to the department after visiting 33 clinics and hospitals.

Makhomisani said during their assessment they found that the shortages impacted heavily on hospitals and clinics.

He said at one clinic nurses had to take on administrative duties because there were no clerks.

"We noticed that the shortage of staff is a critical issue," Makhomisani said.

He said problems also included the lack of basic implements such as TB masks, and that hospital buildings were falling apart.

National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) was also expected to hold a briefing to outline plans for a day of action.

In a statement, Nehawu said it wanted the department to resolve issues, including the failure to hire community health workers on permanent basis.

Yesterday MEC for health in Limpopo Phophi Ramathuba said she previously shared the department's hiring plans with the TAC.

"I sat with them and showed them we are going to advertise posts of CEOs and clinical managers," Ramathuba said.

She said department recently appointed clinical managers and CEOs in Mokopane, Donald Fraser, Letaba and Lebowakgomo public hospitals.

She said a number of specialists were also appointed, adding that the 108 nurses would also be employed.

Ramathuba said the department had also decided not to build any new facilities and to focus on refurbishing old infrastructure, and denied the health system was falling apart.

According to the report on Free State, only 17 420 posts out of 21 521 funded posts in the province were filled.

Yesterday spokesman for the Free State health department Mondli Mvambi said they had identify posts to be filled.

"The department is trying to fill vacant posts at every possible level," Mvambi said.

He said it was difficult to retain doctors as many people wanted to work in big cities.

He said pressure groups such the TAC were not helpful as they failed to appreciate government' s challenges.

Last week Sowetan reported that nurses at the Pelonomi Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein downed tools allegedly because of staff shortages. The department committed to sending 13 nurses to the facility.

On Friday Gauteng MEC Gwen Ramokgopa said her department was working at filling critical posts in her office, clinics and at hospitals. About eight managers had left the department last year.

KZN health department could not be reached for comment.

X