Durban — South Africa’s state hospitals have spent R685 million on diesel to keep the lights on amid the Eskom crisis in 11 months.
FF Plus health spokesperson and MP Philip van Staden said this was revealed by Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla in a written question from the FF Plus after Phaahla was unable to answer an oral question on the matter in Parliament.
Based on the response, Van Staden indicated that it was not the right time for National Health Insurance (NHI).
Van Staden had asked Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla that with regard to the current electricity blackouts at state and provincial hospitals, what the total amounts were that were spent on diesel for generators by each hospital in each province during the period of April 1, 2022, up to February 28, 2023. He also asked if the generators at all hospitals across South Africa were in a workable condition; if not, why not, in each case; if so, what were the relevant details in each case and whether he would make a statement on the matter.
According to the reply, the respective provinces (from highest to lowest) spent the following amounts:
- KwaZulu-Natal - R178 387 000
- Gauteng - R131 357 000
- Western Cape - R102 684 000
- Eastern Cape - R81 134 000
- Limpopo - R57 656 000
- Mpumalanga - R44 659 000
- North West - R40 494 000
- Northern Cape - R28 303 000
- Free State - R21 263 000
Phaahla said the generators were in working condition. However, he said he would not make a statement on the generators.
In a statement, Van Staden said the FF Plus was shocked to learn that the country's state hospitals spent R685 million on diesel to keep the lights on between April 1, 2022, and February 28, 2023.
“The country's public health-care services already have a backlog of 175 000 medical procedures and legal-medical claims amounting to R125 billion. And in addition to that, astronomical amounts must be spent on generating electricity as well,” Van Staden said.
“These factors on their own make it clear that now is not the right time to send the National Health Insurance Bill to the National Assembly for adoption.
“The Bill must be placed on ice until the health-care sector has stabilised and can function effectively.
“With just 76 state hospitals and clinics out of a total of 213 currently being exempt from load shedding (according to the minister’s reply dated February 9, 2023), the ongoing power crisis affecting health-care institutions will only be exacerbated by winter that is already knocking at the door,” Van Staden said.
He said that if South Africa’s infrastructure had not totally collapsed and was managed and maintained properly over the last 29 years, and if corruption, mismanagement and maladministration were not at the order of the day, there would have been no need to contend with these major challenges.
“Seeing as the ongoing Eskom crisis has already forced the country to its knees, now is not the time to try and steamroller through ANC policy, like the NHI, in Parliament,” Van Staden said.
“Instead, plans must be drawn up to enable the public health-care sector to overcome the current power crisis.
“It is time to oust the ANC government from power. Next year's elections offer the perfect opportunity to do so.
“South Africans deserve so much better than the current ANC government,” Van Staden added.
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