Premier Ace Magashule has called for prudent use and tighter monitoring of resources to help boost the efficiency of the Free State’s public healthcare system.
In his keynote address at the health indaba held in Bloemfontein this week, the premier warned unscrupulous state employees to desist from sabotaging the government’s efforts to provide quality healthcare through fraudulent activities and abuse of resources.
Recently, he had to order a probe after some employees at one of the province’s major hospitals lodged overtime claims totalling R285-million.
The inflated bill was reduced to only R29-million after the investigators found out that most of the claims were fraudulent.
“After we sent our financial experts to investigate this huge overtime bill at this hospital I wish not to mention by name, we ended up paying only R29-million instead of the initial R285-million we were expected to pay,” Magashule said, adding such scams and other abuses were impacting negatively on the public healthcare system.
An overwhelming majority of patients in the province and across the country rely on public hospitals and clinics for healthcare and in rural areas the state facilities are often the only places sick people could go to for help.
The two-day indaba – held on Tuesday and Wednesday at President Hotel in Bloemfontein – was called to discuss the challenges the health department has been facing, including the shortages of doctors, nurses and other key staff as well as the inadequacy of drugs and other medicines.
In his presentation at the crucial meeting, provincial treasury head Godfrey Mahlatsi said, apart from other challenges, a larger patient load was putting a huge strain on the Free State’s under-resourced public hospitals and clinics.
He said the province’s health institutions have over the past few years seen an increase in the number of patients from the neighbouring Northern Cape and Eastern Cape provinces.
The number of immigrants from Lesotho visiting local hospitals has also risen, a situation that has seen resources meant for patients from the Free State catering for a much larger group and therefore getting finished much quicker than was planned.
“It is not uncommon to come across an ambulance from the Eastern Cape or the Northern Cape bringing patients into our hospitals in the Free State . . . this also has an impact on the resources of the department to offer services to its people,” Mahlatsi said.
The provincial treasury has intervened to help stabilise the situation by, for example, re-evaluating purchase and supply systems for hospitals and other health institutions, resulting in some contracts being re-evaluated or cancelled.
Magashule gave the delegates – who included MECs, government heads of departments and other officials, mayors and councillors – two weeks to submit their suggestions on how to fix the public healthcare problems to the provincial legislature’s social cluster committee.
The premier also ordered that a follow-up meeting to review progress should be held in six months’ time.