Gauteng Heath MEC must go!

The Democratic Alliance is calling for Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi to be fired for failing to institute a full investigation into allegations of corruption made by whistleblower Babita Deokaran shortly before she was murdered last year.

This follows her evasive reply to my questions earlier this week in the Gauteng Legislature where she claimed that Babita made no “formal” request for a forensic investigation into dodgy payments by Tembisa Hospital.

She should surely have ensured that all Babita’s email and WhatsApp messages were analysed and followed up for clues as to why someone wanted her dead.

It’s not enough to suspend the Department’s CFO and the Tembisa Hospital CEO, there needs to be political accountability as well.

The only reason we are seeing action now is because journalists have exposed the fishy companies that got millions of rand for overpriced goods.

Mokgethi has also declined to respond to the accusation by the SA National Civic Organisation (SANCO) in June this year that she knew all about the Tembisa Hospital payments, and was “the mastermind” in order to fund factional ANC battles.

We know at least one senior ANC figure, Mr Sello Sekhokho, got R2.3 million from the hospital for overpriced goods from three of his companies.

Mokgethi was either asleep at the wheel in not pursuing credible allegations of corruption at the hospital, or she colluded in the cover-up by CFO Lerato Madyo and others.

Meanwhile, multiple disasters continue to hurt patients in Gauteng public hospitals, including staff shortages, equipment breakdowns and slow payment of suppliers.

My view is that the MEC is part of the problem and not part of the solution.

She should go!

Gauteng Health MEC ducks question on Tembisa Hospital corruption

Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi today ducked my questions at a sitting of the Gauteng Legislature on why a forensic investigation into suspicious payments by the Tembisa Hospital was not done a year ago when murdered whistleblower Babita Deokaran requested it.

According to Mokgethi, there was no official request by Babita, so she declined to give an answer as to why no investigation was done when Babita reportedly flagged the payments and asked the CFO Lerato Madyo to investigate them.

I think that the MEC is being disingenuous by referring to an “official” request for an investigation. According to the evidence in the News24 investigation which is specifically referred to in my question, she had made the request by email and in WhatsApp messages.

Mokgethi also declined to comment on my follow-up question for her to respond to the SANCO statement in June this year that there was corruption at the Tembisa Hospital and that she was allegedly the “mastermind” behind the tender procurement corruption.

It is unacceptable that the Health MEC ducks questions and refuses to take accountability in this serious matter.

Why did she not ensure that there was a thorough probe of everything that Babita was concerned about before she was murdered by people who wanted to silence her?

I suspect that the MEC was part of the cover-up at Tembisa Hospital because it is linked to senior ANC officials in Gauteng.

We know, for instance, that Sello Sekhokho, the treasurer-general of the ANC’s Ekurhuleni region, got three tenders worth R2.3 million for over-priced goods at the hospital.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura is also delinquent in not ensuring a proper investigation was done a year ago.

It is important that politicians do not escape accountability rather than solely blaming errant officials.

DA to grill Gauteng Health MEC on probe of fishy Tembisa Hospital payments

Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi will face official questions tomorrow on the splurge of Tembisa Hospital payments that murdered whistleblower Babita Deokaran flagged as “possibly fraudulent.”

My question on the order paper for oral reply at the sitting of the Gauteng Legislature is as follows:

“With regard to investigations by News24 concerning Babita Deokaran’s request for a forensic investigation into payments made by Tembisa Hospital, will the MEC please indicate:

1. Did the acting Head of Department or any other official at the time receive such a request;

2. If so, why was no forensic investigation done into the Tembisa Hospital payments that she flagged as suspicious;

3. Whose decision was it not to do a forensic investigation into the Tembisa Hospital payments;

4. Was the MEC aware at any stage of any request or observation by Babita Deokaran of suspicious payments at Tembisa Hospital;

5. If so, what was the MEC’s role in this matter?”

After much delay, the Department’s CFO Lerato Madyo has been suspended as well as the Tembisa Hospital CEO Ashley Mthunzi, and Gauteng Premier David Makhura has announced that an investigation will be done.

The burning question is why a proper investigation was not done a year ago after Babita Deokaran was murdered.

We are talking big money – R850 million of payments to fishy companies for over-priced goods, including R500 000 for 100 leather armchairs, face cloths at R230 apiece, and

200 skinny jeans for young girls at R2500 each.

It is important that the Health MEC takes accountability for this as well.

She is required to answer my questions, and then take a follow-up question.

The DA will continue to press for full accountability and decisive measures to root out corrupt officials who steal money while hospital patients suffer from poor service.



Seven hundred and eighty -five ops cancelled at Charlotte Maxeke hospital as 2677 patients wait for surgery

Over 780 operations were cancelled at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital last year, worsening the long waiting lists for surgery which has grown to 2677 patients.

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

Paediatric surgery was the most affected, with 610 cancelled operations. The other cancellations were as follows:

• 80 Cardiothoracic ops cancelled
• 40 Gastrointestinal ops cancelled
• 25 Breast clinic, Endocrine and Soft Tissue ops cancelled
• 20 Neurosurgery ops cancelled
• 10 Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) ops cancelled

The largest waiting list is for Orthopaedics, with 833 patients who could wait up to two years for surgery.

Paediatric surgery has 453 child patients who will wait between 6 months and two years.

There are 200 cataract patients who will wait between 6 and 8 months for surgery, 137 neurosurgery patients will wait for six months, and 109 urology patients will wait between 4 and 6 months.

I think these figures underestimate the true situation as it does not include the long waiting periods for many patients to be diagnosed by a specialist before they are placed on the waiting lists for surgery.

Insufficient theatre time and the shortage of ICU beds are the major reasons for the cancellation of operations.

Disruption from Covid-19 and the partial closure of the hospital due to the fire in April last year are other factors.

It’s particularly upsetting that many children suffer from the surgery delays.

This highlights the need to fully re-open the hospital as soon as possible, and to expand the operating theatre and ICU capacity in order to drastically cut the surgery waiting lists.

870 ops cancelled at Bara Hospital this year

870 operations have been cancelled at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital so far this year because of overbooking, equipment problems, maintenance issues, and shortages of linen.

This was disclosed today by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in an oral reply to my questions at a sitting of the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Mokgethi, the shortage of clean linen occurred because of inconsistent functioning of boilers and frequent breakages of laundry machines.

She said that the department would be buying a new boiler, which costs about R20 million, to cut down on linen shortages.

I am concerned by the high number of cancelled operations as this causes great distress to staff and patients.

Surgeons are hugely frustrated when an operation cannot proceed because of a linen shortage or another avoidable reason.

Some patients have waited years for operations, only to be disappointed at the last moment when their surgery is cancelled.

Hospital CEOs should be given more powers to do maintenance, which is currently done by the dysfunctional Gauteng Infrastructure Development Department.

More use should be made of private laundries as the state-run laundries are notoriously unreliable and are not cost-effective.

Every effort should be made to avoid the cancellation of operations as the surgery backlogs are alarmingly high and patients suffer from long waits.



259 Ambulance accidents in Gauteng

Gauteng’s emergency response times to save lives are hindered by a high accident rate, with 259 ambulances involved in accidents in 2020 and 2021.

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

According to Mokgethi, R8.3 million was spent on accident repairs, and 40 disciplinary hearings were held concerning these accidents, which resulted in final written warnings for misconduct.

I am greatly concerned that more than one in five of Gauteng’s 1221 emergency ambulances were involved in accidents over a two-year period.

Some of these ambulances were written off, and others were off the road for a long time because of slow repairs.

Currently, 140 ambulances are not operational, which leads to lives being lost due to slow response times. The department says that these ambulances are not in service because “daily downtime that sees vehicles taken for scheduled services, and unplanned (breakdowns) repairs and maintenance.”

According to international standards, Gauteng should have one ambulance for every 10 000 people as well as 10% more for a buffer, which amounts to 1795 ambulances.

We are therefore short of about 600 ambulances to provide a decent emergency service.

Better management is needed to cut down on reckless ambulance driving and to ensure that people needing emergency care are reached as soon as possible.

Generator fails during 6-day power failure at South Rand Hospital

Consternation reigned at the South Rand Hospital in south Johannesburg last month when there was a power outage for six days and the back-up generator did not fully function during this period.

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

According to Mokgethi, there was a power failure from 4 March to 10 March 2022, which was because “the HP panels between municipality and hospital were faulty, thus electricity from the municipality could not connect to the hospital.”

Mokgethi says that the generator did not operate for the full duration of the outage as it is aged and “it is speculated that prolonged utilisation results in it switching off.”

I am most concerned that faulty electricity panels led to such a long outage and that the generator did not continuously operate when required.

Both of these failures highlight the poor maintenance at this hospital over many years.

It is unacceptable that a hospital is plunged into darkness for so long without reliable back-up power.

Patients have suffered as surgery has been delayed and some patients had to be sent to other hospitals for emergency procedures.

The dysfunctional Gauteng Infrastructure Department is yet again to blame for badly maintaining hospitals.

The DA proposes that hospital CEOs be put in control of maintenance with an adequate budget to make up for years of neglect.

25 Corruption cases at Charlotte Maxeke hospital

The Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital has had 25 corruption-related disciplinary cases in the last five years, six of which involved procurement irregularities.

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

The cases include the following:

• Two cases of forged medical certificates – the one employee was dismissed and the other one resigned while facing a disciplinary hearing.
• Selling of jobs – the employee resigned before the disciplinary hearing.
• A bribery case in December 2021 which is still ongoing.
• Fraudulent identity document – this happened in January 2012 but management only became aware of it in January this year, and the employee has absconded.
• Falsification of records – the employee got a final written warning.

I am concerned that disciplinary action has not been concluded in two cases involving procurement irregularities that date back to February and March 2020. According to Mokgethi, these cases “were put on hold subject to the Covid-19 status in the country.”

How can it be that a disciplinary hearing on a critical corruption matter drags on for two years?

In the four other cases of procurement irregularities, one was closed for lack of evidence, one employee absconded, one died, and one resigned before the hearing.

I suspect these cases are the tip of the iceberg. Lackadaisical action against all forms of corruption hurts patients the most as they suffer when money is misappropriated that should be used to provide better treatment.

18 Gauteng head office posts vacant, some for more than ten years

Despite failing health services in Gauteng, 18 senior posts at the Gauteng Health Department are vacant, including two posts that have not been filled for more than 10 years.

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

According to Mokgethi, the post of Senior Human Resource Manager in the Directorate of Health Information Management and Technology has not been filled for 11 years and 9 months.

Other posts that have not been filled with permanent employees for more than two years include the following:

• Senior Administration Manager in the Directorate for Strategic Support and Performance Management has been vacant for 10 years and 4 months.

• Senior Administration Manager in the Integrated Employee Wellness Programme unfilled for 9 years and 9 months.

• Senior Human Resources Manager at the Directorate Management, Leadership and Skills Development for 3 years and 1 month.

• Senior Nursing Manager for 2 years and 8 months.

• Senior Manager in Health and Occupational Risk Management for 2 years and 4 months.

• Senior Finance Manager for two years.

It is of great concern that key posts have had acting personnel for so long as competent leadership is desperately needed to fix this department is plagued by scandal and inefficiency.

The top post of Head of Department has not been filled for 1 year and 5 months, and a permanent Chief Financial Officer has not been appointed since the previous CFO left in May 2020.

Mokgethi claims that most of these posts will be filled by April or May this year but false promises have been made before about filling posts.

I suspect that many posts have acting personnel in order to allow opportunities for corruption.

It’s high time that all senior posts were filled with ethical and competent people who will ensure a decent health service for sick people in our province.

Payment promised to fix broken Gauteng hospital lifts

Patients are suffering as lifts are broken at public hospitals in Gauteng, but payment has only now been promised for the company which refused to fix them because of months of non-payment.

This was revealed yesterday at a joint meeting of the Health Committee and the Infrastructure Development Committee in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to the Gauteng Health Department, there was a backlog of R143 million owing to a number of service providers dating back to October last year. The Department said that the lift service company was insisting on proof of payment before doing lift repairs, and they would be paid by the end of this week.

South Rand Hospital is worst effected, with all three of its lifts out of action since 17 January this year. There is a terrible smell in the hospital because medical waste is left in wards, and porters have to carry patients on the stairs for surgery. Dead bodies also have to be carried down to the basement mortuary of this 7-storey hospital.

Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi has herself complained about the broken lifts at Tembisa Hospital where patients also have to be carried on the stairs.

Other hospitals with frequent broken lifts include the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg, Steve Biko and Edenvale hospitals.

The DA has long proposed that hospitals should be allowed to do their own maintenance so they can make direct payments to reliable contractors that they choose, instead of the dysfunctional and corruption-riven Infrastructure Development Department.

It is ridiculous that hospital managers have no control over maintenance, including critical functions like lifts and air-conditioning.

Maintenance should be given a high priority in our deteriorating public hospitals, including compliance with vital occupational safety legislation.