Cape Town - As South Africa’s health sector teeters on
the verge of collapse, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is going to push for
changes in the law that will allow the National Department of Health (NDoH) to
intervene in provinces.
“Provinces don’t always listen to
national,” admitted Motsoaledi at a press conference in Tshwane on Tuesday,
referring to the limited powers the NDoH has to intervene in provincial health
But, after the collapse of health services
in the North West, the provincial health department was placed under national
Motsoaledi said that he needs the power to
intervene, and announced that the dire staff shortages in the province will be
addressed immediately. He said that 222 critical health worker positions will
be filled in the North West by the end of June at a cost of R150m.
But Gauteng is another province in crisis.
Strike action at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital last week, the rising
financial burden of medico-legal claims and the recent Life Esidimeni mental
health tragedy have prompted calls for the province to be placed under
National administration, as provided for in
Section 100 of the Constitution, allows the national government and NDoH to
take over processes under the control of provinces including in human
resources, procurement, equipment maintenance and financial management.
“Gauteng will be filling a substantial
amount of vacant posts and [Gauteng health MEC] Dr Gwen Ramokgopa will announce
details on that in the next few days,” he said.
But he admits that “we don’t have the legal
authority over those functions” and that, although the province has agreed to
fill vacant posts, “at the moment I can only plead with them”.
“It will be disastrous for Gauteng not to
fill in essential vacant posts,” he said.
According to Motsoaledi, should the
province fail to fill these posts as well as implement other recommendations including
decreasing its cancer treatment backlog, “I will have no option other than to
put them under administration”.
But this is not a long-term solution and
Motsoaledi announced that he has proposed substantial changes to the law
contained within the National Health Insurance Bill that will be tabled in
Parliament in the next week, should it be approved by cabinet on Wednesday.
He said that the limited powers of the
national government in procurement and human resources specifically has caused
many of the current on-going “grievances”.
“This is what we are going to be changing
with the National Health Insurance so that the hiring of posts is no longer
done by provinces… We can’t deal adequately with the present arrangement so it
needs to change,” he said. –