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.

16 Gauteng hospitals suffer water shortages and cancel 392 ops

Sixteen Gauteng public hospitals have experienced water cuts this year, forcing the cancellation of 392 operations.

This is revealed by Gauteng Health and Wellness MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

The Helen Joseph Hospital had 7 water supply interruptions from March to September this year, with 36 operations cancelled.

Edenvale Hospital had to cancel 117 operations because of 7 periods with low pressure or no water at all, sometimes lasting as long as a week. Negative effects on patients included being unable to clean, cook, and operate essential equipment like boilers, laundry and autoclave sterilisers.

Six water failures at the Pholosong Hospital on the East Rand led to 127 cancelled operations and 36 deferred operations.

Kalafong hospital had major water shortages this year on 28 January and on 9 September, but used contingency measures to avoid cancelling any surgery.

Water problems are not only because of Rand Water or municipality cuts – no fewer than 11 hospitals lost water because of internal pipe breakages. These include the Chris Hani Baragwanath, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg, George Mukhari, Steve Biko, Tembisa, Kalafong, Edenvale, Leratong, Yusuf Dadoo, Kopanong and Jubilee hospitals.

The department says hospitals should have a minimum of 48 hours water storage, which many hospitals claim to have but it does not seem to have prevented water disruptions. One problem is that some hospitals do not have pumps to get water to higher floors – low water pressure is a particular problem at the Tembisa and Edenvale hospitals.

According to the department, steps are being taken to ensure all hospitals have tankers and boreholes, rainwater harvesting, grey water reuse, and water purification plans per facility.

Better maintenance should also be a priority as leaking pipes aggravate the problem.

The DA supports all efforts to make our hospitals water resilient as our water woes seem set to continue for a long time.

Investigation reports show Bank of Lisbon fire could have been prevented

Investigation reports into the Bank of Lisbon fire show it could have been prevented if provincial government departments had adhered to safety legislation to ensure effective fire prevention.

Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi made the reports available this week following questions I asked about why they were not made public more than five years after the fire destroyed the BOL building on 5 September 2018, costing the lives of three firefighters.

The reports include findings from an investigation by the Department of Employment and Labour, a forensic report by TFS Africa Forensics, a report by City of Johannesburg Emergency Services, and a legal opinion by Harris Nupen Molebatsi Attorneys (HNM).

There were two tenants in the building – the Gauteng Department of Health, and the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements, Cooperative Governance, and Traditional Affairs.

They are both criticised for contravening the Occupational Health and Safety Act, in that they did not conduct the risk assessment that “would have rated the fire risk as life threatening and recommended remedies for the Bank of Lisbon building for the safety of their employees.”

It was found that the fire started in the office of Advocate Mpelegeng Lebeloane, Chief Director Legal Services for Gauteng Health, possibly from a heater that was near combustible materials. According to the fire department, the fire could have been contained if an automatic fire suppression system was installed. Another problem was water hoses that did not work.

HNM Attorneys identify various Acts of Misconduct that could lead to disciplinary proceeding against certain individuals. They say there may be a prima facie negligence case against Ms Lebeloane for failing to exercise the necessary degree of care by leaving a bar heater on in her office close to flammable material which ignited and caused the fire. There are, however, conflicting accounts about another source of the fire in her office.

The glaring gap is the absence of a report by the SA Police Services who have still not completed their investigation after all this time.

Despite investigation reports that were completed long ago, the provincial government has made no effort to discipline negligent staff.

The DA calls for disciplinary action in this matter, including those who failed to adhere to occupational safety legislation that could have prevented this devastating fire.

We will also pressure the police to conclude their investigation and lay criminal charges where indicated. It is disgraceful this has taken so long as there needs to be accountability and justice for the families who grieve for the three firefighters who died.


Why are Gauteng Hospitals getting food from fishy Limpopo contract?

The Gauteng Health Department has spent R23.6 million buying food for Gauteng hospitals through a fishy Limpopo contract that includes companies not registered to supply food.

This is revealed by Gauteng Health and Wellness MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to the MEC, the department opted to use a Limpopo provincial government contract for food as there was “a shortage of food provisions due to suppliers awarded contracts via the request for quotation (RFQ) not being in a position to deliver.” Food ordered so far from Limpopo includes fruits, vegetables, dairy products, fish, eggs and bread.

When I asked why it was not possible to buy these items under contract in Gauteng, they replied that the department “is in the process of establishing a contract for food.”

There are 54 Limpopo companies listed as suppliers of food to Gauteng hospitals, but many are not in the food business, including 7 construction companies! Why is an engineering company, a security firm, and a motor workshop supplying food?

It looks like Gauteng is joining a Limpopo government scam to benefit from dodgy contracts with possible payoffs to ANC politicians.

How is it possible that the department can’t find local companies to supply bread and eggs to hospitals? And why are we paying extra transport costs for perishable food?

Premier Panyaza Lesufi claims to be championing township businesses, but they are being cut out as well.

The DA calls for an immediate halt to this contract and an urgent investigation into who authorised it and who benefits from it.


Accountability needed for botched investigation into Babita Deokaran’s murder

The appointment of new Hawks investigators into the murder of whistleblower Babita Deokaran shows the initial investigation was botched and crucial evidence has been lost.

According to a report, the new team is seeking information from the three cellphones of taxi boss Khanyisani Mpungose, who was named as a mastermind by the six men who were recently jailed for her killing.

Mpungose was initially questioned but released because his firearm could not be linked to the crime. Unfortunately, the police neglected to download information from his cellphones when he was in custody, and he was murdered in a taxi feud a few months later.

According to the plea bargain of the six men, Mpungose and an unknown person fired 11 shots at Babita’s car, and he was “clearly acting on behalf of other unknown persons.”

Mpungose’s family say two of his cellphones were lost shortly after his death, and one was lost a few months ago, so this evidence is no longer available.

The other example of bungling is that the police did not analyse Babita’s cellphone and laptop. It was only after they were returned to her family and analysed by journalists that it was revealed how she tried to stop hundreds of suspicious payments by the Tembisa Hospital.

The Gauteng Department of Community Safety dodges this issue in a reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature. They refuse to answer whether police took any information from her cellphone and laptops, saying this cannot be divulged “due to the sensitive nature of this matter” and a “serious threat” to the investigator.

The department denies there were any shortcomings in the investigation of this case, but it is clear they failed to properly analyse Babita’s communication devices, and also failed to get information from Mpungose’s cellphones when they could have done so.

Meanwhile, we are no closer to getting the real mastermind who gave the orders to murder Babita as she threatened their lucrative crookery.

The question is whether police failures are due to incompetence or deliberately botched to protect certain political figures who may be implicated.

The DA calls for accountability for police failures in this matter, and further investigations should be relentless in finding all those involved in Babita’s murder.

Gauteng Health should pay its electricity bills

The news that Johannesburg council has served pre-termination notices on two hospitals for outstanding electricity payments highlights the need for the Gauteng Health Department to pay their bills like everybody else.

According to the council, the Rahima Moosa Hospital owes R7 million and the Helen Joseph Hospital owes R23 million.

It is not clear whether other Johannesburg hospitals have been served notices as well.

According to an official reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature in August this year, the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital owed R329.6 million and Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital owed R19.3 million.

The Gauteng Health Department then claimed that R78 million was the total electricity debt owed to all councils in Gauteng.

I presume that serving notice on hospitals for payment is only a pressure tactic as it would be inhuman to cut electricity to a hospital.

Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi should step in to ensure all provincial government departments pay their municipality bills on time as this has been a sore point for many years now.

Gauteng’s health crisis deepens with only 53% of achieved targets

Gauteng’s public health crisis deepens as the Gauteng Health Department achieved only 56 out of 106 targets (53%), as disclosed in the First Quarterly Report that covers the period April to June this year.

This report was recently tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature. It shows that four out of eight programmes achieved 0% of their targets – Administration, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Health Science and Training, and Health Facilities Management.

In the case of EMS, it was allocated R518 984 000 for the quarter under review and spent R628 565 000, but only 42% of Priority 1 calls in urban areas were attended to within 30 minutes instead of the 85% target. In rural areas, ambulances reached 83% of P1 calls within 60 minutes instead of the 100% target.

It is scandalous that so much money is spent but lives are lost due to poor ambulance response times.

Incredibly, the department reports that rural ambulances were used from Bronkhorstspruit to attend to calls from the George Mukhari, Steve Biko, Mamelodi and Odi hospitals. Imagine sending an ambulance to pick up a patient 90 kilometres away!

Other dismal figures include R880 270 000 irregular expenditure, and only 41% of invoices paid within the required 30 days,

None of the planned capital projects were completed, including emergency repairs to the neonatal and labour wards at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

Maternal mortality at District Hospitals are also a worry, with a mortality rate of 92/100 000instead of the 54/100 000 target.

Drastic surgery is needed to fix the department’s management failures, but it won’t happen under this provincial government which ruins everything with cadre deployments and inaction against rampant corruption.

Gauteng Premier’s chaotic Anti-corruption Unit fails dismally

The anti-corruption unit in Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi’s office is beset by resignations and slow investigations, with many cases taking years to finalise.

This is revealed by Lesufi’s written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

I asked him why one investigation into alleged fraud started in July 2014 and was only finalised in November 2022 – more than 8 years later!

This case was quite simple – a Gauteng Health Department official was registered as a director of a day care NGO that got R2.4 million from the Gauteng Department of Social Development. But according to the department:

“The project took long to be completed as it was initially not allocated timely due to capacity constraints. When the project was ultimately allocated to the investigation team, they resigned while the allegations were still being investigated. The project could not be reallocated on time as the other team
members were also finalizing other projects that were assigned to them resulting in further delays. This project was then allocated to then newly recruited Director who also resigned while the investigation was under execution phase.“

After all this, it was found that the official did not know she was registered as a director of this NGO and did not benefit from the money.

In other cases that took more than four years to conclude, the department blames “capacity constraints”, and says “the Provincial Forensic Audits has consistently been experiencing a high staff turnover rate due to continuous resignations of staff members.”

One investigation into alleged gross misconduct, theft and corruption was initiated in November 2017 and completed in November 2022, but the disciplinary process against the official is still not finalised.

In another case involving procurement irregularities, the investigation was started in May 2018 and completed in October last year, but management has not been able to implement the recommendations.

Meanwhile, many officials are suspended for years on full pay as a result of these slow investigations.

This chaotic investigation unit where staff come and go is shameful. It shows that fighting corruption is not a high priority for the ANC in Gauteng, which pursues cadre deployment and protecting its buddies in high positions.

This is why provincial departments are often badly run and waste huge amounts of money instead of providing needed services.

The DA proposes a highly proficient internal investigation unit that can do speedy probes to root out corruption in the provincial government.


Last chance to protest against NHI Bill

Gauteng residents have a last chance to protest the NHI Bill at the final public hearing of the Gauteng Legislature’s Health Committee which is scheduled for tomorrow.

The implementation of the proposed NHI will be disastrous for Gauteng as it will harm the economy and won’t fix public hospitals which are notoriously badly run.

Many medical professionals will emigrate rather than work for a single government-run system that is likely to be corrupt and inefficient.

The biggest question is how it will be funded. While there is no cost assessment, it is estimated it would cost about R300 billion.

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana has admitted it lacks a sustainable funding source and he would rather see money spent on improving public hospitals to make them attractive to everyone.

It is sheer madness to proceed with NHI when Government is faced with austerity measures as tax revenues have fallen drastically in a low-growth economy.

The DA believes in universal access to healthcare, but this bill fails to address manifold issues including the following:

• staff shortages;
• crumbling facilities due to poor maintenance;
• medication stock-outs;
• low level of computerisation;
• shortages of equipment;
• high medico-legal claims
• massive corruption and maladministration;
• poor patient record-keeping.

Key provisions of the Bill are likely to be unconstitutional, including the Certificate of Need which will determine where medical practitioners are allowed to work, and the centralisation of power that takes away the provincial role in providing health care.

Private medical aids will ultimately be outlawed under this scheme, and skilled professionals who power our economy are likely to move en masse if they are forced to use poorly run government health facilities.

This Bill threatens to make a giant Eskom out of our health system, magnifying the opportunities to loot while failing to deliver a basic service.

Fear about the NHI is already damaging our economy, but the ANC is brushing aside all opposition as they think their false promises will help them in next year’s election.

The DA will press the Gauteng provincial government to reject the Bill in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

We urge the public to attend this last hearing in Gauteng to make their views known.

The meeting will be on Thursday 21 September at the Brixton Multipurpose Centre, starting at 9am.

Gauteng hospitals need water resilience

The water cuts that have again affected the Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa Hospitals highlight the urgent need for water resilience measures at Gauteng public hospitals.

Hospitals should never run out of water as it shoots up the risk of infection and disease.

It is also very distressing for patients, and surgery backlogs rise when operations are cancelled.

With the latest water cuts, the toilets became smelly, and relatives had to bring in water when visiting their loved ones.

The Pholosong hospital on the East Rand has also been affected by water cuts since last week when Rand Water reservoirs ran low.

And earlier this month, Edenvale Hospital had a water shortage because of a burst internal pipe.

Water resilience measures should include increased reserve water storage, the digging of internal boreholes, regular maintenance of water pipes, and pumps to get water to higher floors when water pressure is low.

Every hospital needs a water plan in our new reality where flowing water can no longer be taken for granted.