How will Minister Phaahla heal public health’s money problems?

29th September 2023

How will Minister Phaahla heal public health’s money problems?

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla

The DA takes note of the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla’s media briefing yesterday and the dark picture he painted of the Department of Health’s finances.

Between the R8 billion needed to cover the 7.5% salary increases, infrastructure grants that need to be redistributed to address loadshedding and water shortages, the many staff shortages, and the billions needed – which the country does not have, as recently confirmed again by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana – to implement the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill.

Furthermore, the National Department of Health (NDoH) is failing to meet its targets regarding the reduction of medico-legal claims. In a briefing to the Select Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday, the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) told Parliament that of the four service providers appointed by NDoH to address the issue, only two had performed work regarding medico-legal claims at a cost of R93.8 million as of 31 March 2022.

Despite some successful negotiations for lesser settlements on the medico-legal claims, in 2022, the Department still had to pay more than R855 million towards more than 14 500 medico-legal claims. AGSA further pointed out that although the amount paid out had decreased compared to the number of claims lodged, additional funds still had to be requested from Treasury in certain instances and the “reduction of payment is not an indication of a sustainable reduction as it was mainly due to a timing difference between the time the claim is received, and the time the claim is actually paid”.

AGSA also highlighted that medico-legal claims were exacerbated by lack of staff with relevant expertise, and the fact that the electronic case management system (CMS) that was meant to be implemented in eight provinces by March 2020 has only been implemented in four and was only being used one. According to the Department of Health, the contract for the CMS has come to an end and they are in the process of engaging with previous service providers to ensure that its internal information communication technology (ICT) systems are able to run the CMS. This eventuality should have been anticipated and sorted long before the contract came to an end.

DoH also stated that there was a total of 1 043 cases in the 2022/23 financial year with claims which cost government more than R1.4 billion, and 1 415 cases in 2021/22 on which R1.2 billion was spent.

It is clear that Minister Phaahla failed to address the serious issues concerning the public health sector during his time in office. Instead of systematically addressing infrastructure failures, staff shortages, medicine stockouts, and corruption, he has put all his efforts into an NHI pipe dream that will bankrupt the country and cripple public health care in South Africa.

 

Issued by Michele Clarke MP - DA Shadow Minister of Health