Department of Health underspends by R1billion in hospital revitalisation
Patricia Kopane, Shadow Minister of Health
23 April 2012
During a meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Health at the end of last week, the Department of Health revealed that it underspent in its hospital revitalisation programme by roughly R1 billion during the 2010/2011 financial year. The total budget for the programme was R4.1 billion in 2010/2011.
In 2011/2012, the programme received a further R100 million budget allocation, increasing the budget to R4.2 billion. The latest figures from Treasury indicate a further decline of 13.2% in spending on the programme in the first quarter of 2011/2012.
Final figures for spending on the programme in 2011/2012 will only be available in the 2011/2012 annual report to be released later this year.
The fact of the matter is that the health system is in a state of chaos. Every cent available should be spent on improving our health system. Oversight visits by the Portfolio Committee on Health consistently reveal unacceptable conditions at health centres.
During our latest visit to the Marantha Clinic in Brandfort in the Free State, we saw that the clinic had no water and therefore had to send many patients away to other health facilities. Many of the people in the community of Majwemasweu, which the Marantha Clinic primarily caters for, could not afford to travel the long distance to other clinics and therefore simply had to deal with their problems themselves.
This clinic is obviously in dire need of assistance from the Hospital Revitalisation Programme. There are certainly countless others in need of similar support. It is therefore unacceptable that the Department failed to spend around a quarter of its budget in the hospital revitalisation programme.
This also has important implications for Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s National Health Insurance (NHI) plan. If the Department is not able to manage its current budgets to improve hospitals, how does it expect to be able to manage the billions required to make NHI work through the complex web of bureaucracy it plans to superimpose on top of the already-struggling system?
I will pose this question to the Minister of Health tomorrow when I address Parliament on the Department’s budget for 2012/2013. We have to be realistic about what we can achieve with our health system given our human and other resource constraints. Pie-in-the-sky plans that do not account for operational realities will not improve service delivery.
This experience in the hospital revitalisation programme clearly underlines the need for an urgent reassessment of the Department of Health’s operational capacity to actually implement a programme as complex and expensive as NHI.