Gauteng gets new head of health as third wave numbers rocket
The Gauteng health department has appointed Dr Sibongile Zungu as its acting head from Thursday in a bid to bring about stability as the province battles a rampant third wave of Covid-19.
“I have signed a concurrence with the premier, David Makhura. We are taking Dr Sibongile Zungu. She will come and act as head of department in Gauteng until they can do the recruitments and stabilise the system,” said acting health minister Mmamoloko Kubayi in a recent interview with SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE.
Provincial government spokesperson Thabo Masebe confirmed the appointment. “Dr Zungu starts after the secondment by national government to bring about stability in the province.”
The third wave of Covid-19, driven by the Delta variant, has hit Gauteng harder than any other province so far.
Zungu was appointed as the acting head of health in the Eastern Cape after the resignation of Dr Thobile Mbengashe in September 2020, and she is the former head of department in KwaZulu-Natal.
In addition to Zungu’s appointment, Kubayi said the national department is assisting the province in filling key vacant posts, and she has asked public service and administration minister Senzo Mchunu for help.
“There were challenges where people were leaving. Now there is an acting CFO, acting head of department. Even in terms of all of these plans, there must be people in place to implement and run them so that we can see these plans going into the hospitals,” said Kubayi.
Kubayi said she was trying to assist the province to address a shortage of nursing staff. “We had conversations with NGOs such as Right to Care and Gift of the Givers to ask them to come on board to assist Gauteng, to which they agreed,” she said.
“There are conversations with the Solidarity Fund to assist, and currently in Gauteng they are looking at additional nurses to help us with the surge. We are hoping for about 480 and hoping that they can come quickly.
“It is not that the beds do not exist, they exist, they just need to be activated. So they need the human capacity to activate those beds.”
Kubayi has also asked for a report on doctors who are waiting to be placed at various facilities to do their community service training.
“I have asked the team to give me a report. I was speaking to [finance] minister Tito Mboweni saying it is an indictment on him and me, as people who believe in education and who have seen what education has done in our lives,” she said.
“I need to understand because it does not make sense to me from where I am sitting. Informally they are saying there is no money so I am trying to figure out what is the problem because every year, surely we should know that we have this amount of students ready to be placed where there is a shortage.”
Masebe welcomed the assistance from the national department. “Hopefully in the next few days we will have enough manpower to help us manage the situation,” he said.
“Last year the premier appointed a strategic team ... to help stabilise the department. This work continues and we are working closely with the national government.”