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Cape Town - Western Cape Health MEC Theuns Botha and his department head have declared war, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says.
On Thursday he lashed out at the pair over their utterances over control and funding of three Western Cape academic hospitals.
A letter Botha wrote to Tygerberg and Groote Schuur staff about control of the institutions was mischievous, misleading and an attack on him, Motsoaledi said.
In his January 21 letter, Botha tells staff the provincial government employed them, the hospitals are provincial assets and any decision to alter their employment status needed to follow proper labour procedures.
“I would reassure you that the Western Cape Government will ensure that your rights in this regard are indeed protected,” Botha wrote.
Botha and his head of department, Craig Househam, have taken issue with Motsoaledi’s plan to relieve the province of control of the three hospitals while Househam had also lamented a possible R173 million cut in the medium-term grant for the hospitals.
Househam also said the national Health Department director-general opposed a grant decrease and that he had not as yet received written confirmation of the cut.
“I think it is serious mischief. I don’t know why they are going to war this week,” an agitated Motsoaledi said.
Househam had acted on an internal communication between junior officials in the national department, who were preparing a budget to be presented to the Treasury for Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, he said. Gordhan would present the national Budget later.
“It will be irresponsible to look at a document junior officials are still working on and are continually tweaking. They can’t come to me all the time,” he said.
About Botha’s letter, Motsoaledi said: “He is stoking fires. It is inciting war to indicate to people in the Western Cape that they are going to be losing their jobs. It is pure mischief.”
He said policy change had nothing to do with jobs and salaries. “Nobody will wake in the morning and receive a letter to say they no longer hold this or that position. South Africa is one country, but there is a certain thinking in the Western Cape. It looks like their world starts and ends in the Western Cape, and if there is any policy change they think we are targeting them. They want to strengthen this siege mentality. It is sad and I’m concerned about it.”
Placing Tygerberg, Groote Schuur and Red Cross under national control was something various experts and academics had urged and he had tabled a proposal in the cabinet where he was advised to change policy, Motsoaledi said - adding that the proposed change was to also align the country’s medicine faculties and teaching hospitals. Academic hospitals were national assets and belonged to the whole country, said Motsoaledi.
Botha said on Thursday: “I’m not at war with him. I had inquiries from hospital staff and I responded by writing that letter. I think it is inappropriate of him to describe it like that.”
He stood by his assertion that the hospitals were provincial assets. Botha has said he will resist a national takeover of the hospitals. About Motsoaledi’s view that the hospitals were national assets, Botha said: “They are assets of national importance that belong to us. Why take them over if they are national assets?”