Why is Gauteng Health still not paying electricity bills

Several Gauteng public hospitals are facing electricity cut-offs this week for owing about R64 million to Johannesburg City Power, but the Gauteng Health Department still refuses to pay.

According to City Power, the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital owes R41 million, and amounts owed by other hospitals include the following:

Helen Joseph Hospital – R13 million
Rahima Moosa Hospital – R4 million
South Rand Hospital – R3 million
Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital – R2.6 million

I highlighted the huge power bills owing by hospitals in August this year, but the department seems to be in denial about its obligation to pay in time like everybody else.

While it is unlikely City Power would actually cut electricity to a hospital, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi needs to step in urgently to ensure speedy payment of all municipal bills.

Gauteng Health corruption cases drag on

Disciplinary hearings for top officials implicated in corruption at the Tembisa and Anglo Ashanti hospitals will drag on into next year, costing millions as they are suspended on full pay.

This was revealed in a presentation by the Gauteng Health Department to the Gauteng Legislature Health Portfolio Committee last week.

According to the presentation, both the Chief Financial Officer Lerato Madyo and the Tembisa Hospital CEO Ashley Mthunzi are still on precautionary suspension, and their disciplinary hearings have been postponed to March 2024 pending the outcome of the SIU investigation.

Madyo and Mthunzi were suspended in August last year after media investigations revealed that murdered whistle-blower Babita Deokaran tried to stop R100 million “possibly corrupt” contracts at the hospital, and flagged other transactions worth R850 million.

About R3 million will have been paid to Madyo and Mthunzi by the time their disciplinary hearings take place next year.

The disciplinary hearings of five other implicated officials at the Tembisa Hospital will also continue into the new year.

Another case of slow disciplinary action concerns nine officials suspended after the SIU investigation into the R588 million spent renovating the Anglo Ashanti Hospital in the Far West Rand which is now abandoned.

These officials are from the Infrastructure Development Department and the Gauteng Health Department. Their next disciplinary hearing is set for January 2024. According to the Evidence Leader, the “prospects of success are high as each of these officials are facing several charges and it is unlikely that they will be acquitted of all changes.”

The DA is most concerned by slow discipline against officials accused of irregular activities involving huge amounts of money that should have been used to improve treatment for patients.

Excessive delays also means millions of rands are paid to officials suspended with pay.

Could it be that some cases are dragged out as they could implicate senior ANC officials?

Professional management of disciplinary cases is needed to ensure speedy justice.

No accountability for Gauteng Health fire despite a damning report

No action has been taken following the damning findings of a report on the fire that started four years ago at the Gauteng Health Department’s head office at the Bank of Lisbon building. This led to the death of three firefighters, and the damaged building has been demolished.

Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko revealed this information in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Nkomo-Ralehoko, an Occupational Health and Safely Incident Investigation report was done by the Department of Labour in conjunction with South African Police Services (SAPS) shortly after the fire on 5 September 2018.

It was handed over to the Department of Health and concluded as follows:

1. The fire suppression systems were not installed in offices occupied by the Health and Human Settlements departments.

2. Both tenant departments did not request the certificate of occupancy from the landlord, which they had an obligation to do.

3. Both tenant departments did not conduct risk assessments of occupancy and further contravened the Environmental
Regulations for Workplaces 9 (2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Act 85 of 1993 by failing to ensure that firefighting equipment is serviced and in good working
condition in case of fire.

Despite these findings, no action has been taken against anyone for these severe lapses that led to the fire that devastated the entire building.

The Health MEC says: “No further investigations are anticipated as far as we have established unless there are developments that have not been communicated to us.”

I have been trying for years to get the details of investigation reports on the BOL fire. Former Premier David Makhura kept promising to make public a “consolidated” report but this never happened.

According to Makhura, there were four investigations. These were done by the SA Police Service, the City of Johannesburg, the Provincial Government and the Department of Labour.

Nkomo-Ralehoko says “investigation reports are never communicated publicly, it is left with the discretion of the report owner.”

I suspect there has been a cover-up of the fire reports to avoid the accountability of senior ANC politicians.

Immediately after the fire, I laid criminal charges of culpable homicide against then Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa and Infrastructure Development MEC Jacob Mamabolo for negligence in not setting up a functioning Occupational Health and Safety Committee for the building, and for ignoring multiple warnings from unions and staff about the fire hazard.

Mamabolo is presently the Gauteng Finance MEC.

Meanwhile, the families of the firefighters who died do not have closure for the loss of their loved ones.

I will continue to press for all the fire reports to be made public so those at fault are held accountable.

EFF members blockade Gauteng Health Tshwane offices

The Democratic Alliance is alarmed that EFF members have blockaded the Gauteng Health Department’s Tshwane district office and forced 200 staff out of their offices.

Trouble started three weeks ago when about 40 EFF members sat in the lobby of the Fedsure building in Tshwane’s inner city and harassed health staff.

Things became increasingly difficult, and since Thursday last week the 200 staff members have had to be relocated elsewhere to try and do their work.

The Tshwane district office services 77 clinics, and their work has been severely disrupted. Newly hired clinic workers won’t get paid this month if the human resource unit cannot get access to their offices.

Both the department and the landlord have laid criminal charges, but the police have not been visible in removing them.

The EFF members are demanding jobs and refuse to leave, some of them sleeping overnight in the building.

On Monday, this week the EFF’s Gauteng Chairperson Itani Mukwevho allegedly arrived at the building and demanded that security let them in to the health department’s offices. He was allegedly abusive when they refused.

Mukwevho is also an MPL and is the EFF Leader in the Gauteng Legislature.

This appalling behaviour by the EFF is unacceptable. It is cruel to make false promises about jobs to their supporters, and patients in Tshwane clinics suffer because of their disruption of the district office.

The department cannot be forced to provide jobs to members of any political party. Whatever jobs there are should be advertised and people appointed on merit.

The DA will be taking this up with the police to ensure that the health staff can do their jobs without threats and hindrance.

Gauteng Health should admit there is a crises

The Gauteng Health Department has given a weak response to the heartfelt plea by Dr Tim De Maayer who wrote an open letter this week about the crisis at the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital (RMMCH).

Dr De Maayer describes how “things are falling apart”, and children are dying because of basic services not being available.

I challenged Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in the health budget debate yesterday in the Gauteng Legislature to admit that there is a full-scale crisis, rather than “pressures” as she has said in a recent interview.

But her response was only more of the same that we have heard before, that the department is responding and issues are being addressed.

A case in point is the 16-year-old CT Scanner that has been broken for more than three months at the RMMCH.

According to the department, the breakdown was due to normal wear and tear, and a part was ordered from the Netherlands. After it was installed it was discovered that yet another part was faulty which was ordered from Phillips SA, but it turned out that there was yet another fault that caused the newly installed part to blow out.

Technicians are now looking to salvage parts from a condemned CT Scanner at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital which may or may not ensure that the RMMCH Scanner returns to working order.

When I asked MEC Mokgethi yesterday as to when the CT Scanner would be fixed she could not give me a firm date.

Meanwhile, Dr De Maayer describes how a child needed an urgent brain scan but had to wait 48 hours before it could be done at the Nelson Mandela Childrens Hospital.

The key issue is why there wasn’t a continuous maintenance contract for the scanner and a plan to replace it when it predictably broke down after being used for a normal lifespan.

This is a problem at other public hospitals in Gauteng where vital machinery breaks down all the time and patients’ lives are put at risk.

The first step in addressing a crisis is to admit that there is a crisis. Dr De Maayer is correct to say that “things are falling apart”.

I noted in my budget speech yesterday that there are still too many incompetent and corrupt officials in key positions. This is why a very large budget of R59.4 billion is spent so inefficiently and ineffectively.

It’s like pouring water into a leaking bucket.

This is why we saw the feeding frenzy over the PPE money, and other scandals like the R500 million spent on the Anglo Ashanti ghost hospital in the far west rand.

It’s also why Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital has not been speedily repaired, causing terrible suffering to thousands of patients.

We need determined political will from the very top to take the hard decisions to fix the deep rot in the Gauteng Health Department, otherwise the life-destroying scandals will continue to happen.


Doctor injured as poor security and power cuts cripple Soweto clinic

A female doctor was attacked by a patient on Thursday last week at the Lillian Ngoyi Clinic in Soweto, which has also suffered from power cuts as its generators fail to work.

This busy clinic is situated next to the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, but has only a skeleton security staff since security contracts expired earlier this year.

Last week’s incident, in which the doctor suffered injuries to her hand, follows other security problems at the clinic.

Services at the clinic have been limited for the past three weeks because of the security and power issues.

The x-ray department and the pharmacy have had to close for extended periods because the generator has run out of diesel.

Certain specialised tests also cannot be performed with the unreliable power.

Staff have raised issues repeatedly with management but there has been no improvement in this dire situation where they live in fear and patients get poor treatment.

I have alerted Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi to this situation and hopefully she intervenes speedily.

DA welcomes new Gauteng Health Head

The DA welcomes the appointment of Dr Nomonde Nolutshungu as the new Head of the Gauteng Health Department.

This appointment by Premier David Makhura is long overdue as this key post has been filled by two acting heads since Professor Mkululi Lukhele left in October 2020 after being implicated in the PPE scandal.

Dr Nolutshungu faces multiple challenges in fixing a department that is notorious for corruption scandals and poor service delivery.

The rot runs so deep that Babita Deokaran, a senior health official, was gunned down last year because she was honest and opposed corruption.

Nolutshungu needs to ensure that the department’s R60 billion budget is spent efficiently and effectively. This can be achieved by following the recommendations in the Auditor General’s annual reports which regularly uncover massive irregular and unauthorised spending.

Another priority is filling all staff vacancies at hospitals as soon as possible, and refurbishing crumbling facilities.

Many patients are suffering because of an alarming increase in surgery backlogs, and lives are lost because of failures in cancer treatment.

Meanwhile, a likely 5th wave of Covid-19 cases places further strain on hospitals.

I look forward to interacting with Dr Nolutshungu to counter the threats as well as highlight opportunities to ensure a decent public health service in Gauteng.

Patients suffer from food supply problems at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital

Patients at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital suffer from food supply disruptions, including bread and dairy products.

This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Mokgethi, meals are supplied by the Department’s Masakhane Cook Freeze factory, but the hospital is often told that the food supply will be interrupted on very short notice.

Furthermore, “there is limited plates/meal variety for each diet code and thus there is a lot of repetition of the meals. The factory states that they have supply chain challenges and thus a shortage of stock … the factory also has challenges with faulty equipment, intermittent water, electricity supply and shortages of staff.”

The MEC admits that “the portion sizes of the food types are too small.”

The hospital has been without sliced bread since October last year because of contract problems and financial constraints. They had to bake their own scones and rusks, and bread rolls were only delivered from 1 April this year.

Yogurt, red meat and vegetables have also run out in the last few months.

The official daily menu provided by the hospital looks good, but this is not what patients actually get. For instance, a month ago the Sunday food was as follows:

• Breakfast – porridge with a roll
• Lunch – dry mixed vegetables, cauliflower and dry cooked mielies
• Supper – an apple and a roll with a margarine tub.

Photos of the meals are available here, here, here and here

I am concerned that sick patients are not getting proper nutrition to assist their recovery.

The hospital should not be forced to use the poorly managed Masakhane Cook Freeze factory. An additional issue is that the cook freeze method destroys nutrients in the food.

A complete overhaul is needed of food supply contracts to ensure that our public hospitals have fresh and healthy food for patients.

Rahima Moosa Hospital CEO works from home as patients sleep on floors

Expectant mothers sleep on the floors of the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in west Johannesburg, but Hospital CEO Nozuko Mkabayi spends about a third of her time working from home.

This information on her working habits is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Mokgethi, Mkabayi was appointed as CEO on 1 January last year, and since then she has only spent 182 days at the hospital.

Mokgethi says “she was appointed in the middle of the second wave of Covid pandemic and like all SMS (Senior Management Service) members she is allowed to work from home. She has a work mobile phone on which she is accessible 24 hours. She has an email address that she is accessible on 24/7 on-site and offsite. All the responsibilities assigned to her have been diligently delivered.”

I am astounded that a hospital CEO is not full-time at the hospital to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

No wonder she doesn’t know that pregnant women sleep on the floor, and she blames opposition parties for staging a video that highlighted this outrageous situation.

Doctors and nurses do not have the luxury of working from home, so how can a hospital chief set such a poor example?

I do not know of any other hospital CEO who worked from home even during the worst period of the Covid epidemic.

The Gauteng Health Department should insist that all essential hospital managers are physically at work to ensure that the best treatment is given to patients who suffer when hospitals are mismanaged.

Gauteng Health owes R3.1 Billion to 42 519 suppliers

The Gauteng Health Department owes R3.1 billion to 42 519 suppliers who have not been paid within the legally required 30 days.

This was disclosed last week at a meeting of the Gauteng Legislature’s Finance Committee.

Tembisa Hospital owes the most – R333 million to 1576 suppliers.

The Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital owes R234 million to 2908 suppliers, followed by the Far East Rand Hospital which owes R230 million to 1795 suppliers.

Recent problems of food supply at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital can be traced to the R226 million that the hospital owes to 2477 suppliers.

Other hospitals with large arrear payments include the following:

• George Mukhari owes R113 million to 2320 suppliers
• Steve Biko owes R95 million to 754 suppliers
• Thelle Mogoerane owes R86 million to 1696 suppliers
• Helen Joseph Hospital owes R70 million to 2093 suppliers
• Kalafong owes R69.6 million to 591 suppliers
• Sebokeng owes R67 million to 860 suppliers
• Tambo Memorial owes R55 million to 1573 suppliers

It is unacceptable that so many suppliers have not been paid and many of them have stopped services, including Buhle Waste, which is why smelly medical waste is building up at Gauteng hospitals.

Late payments are particularly harsh on small companies who sometimes go under because they run out of cash, and staff and patients suffer when services are cut.

The Department typically runs out of money towards the end of the financial year, so the R3.1 billion arrears will cut into the 2022/23 Health Budget of R59.4 billion which starts on 1 April and has not been increased from the previous year.

A financial bail-out will be necessary to clear the arrears, but this should be with strict conditions to fix the poor financial management that plagues this department which is mired in corruption scandals.