As the North West Health Department’s financial crisis deepens, so hospital patients are bearing the brunt. Picture: Steve Lawrence

As the North West Health Department’s financial crisis deepens, so hospital patients are bearing the brunt. Graeme Makam reports that patients at mental health facility Bophelong Hospital in Mahikeng to receive no meat with their meals as from yesterday (March 31).

A memo circulated through the hospital last week informed staff and patients of the new policy, set to be implemented as from March 31.

“Kindly be informed that due to unavailability of funds, food will be served with vegetables only, no meat. From 31/03/2018 until further notice,” read the memo released by hospital management and dated March 20.

The North West Health Department has recently been rocked by scandals and is currently under administration.

The Health Department confirmed that they were aware of the matter, and explained that a strike at the provincial office was the reason behind the shortage. The department’s spokesperson Tebogo Lekgethwane said according to the finance office suppliers were not paid on time due to the strike, which prevented invoices from being processed.

Employees at the provincial office are on strike due to scandals surrounding the department. The striking employees are calling on Northwest Health HOD Dr Thabo Lekalakala to resign. Lekalakala, who’s currently suspended, is alleged to have awarded dodgy tender contracts after his signature was found on all transactions relating to questionable contracts. These include the awarding a R180-million mobile clinic tender to Mediose, an Indian-based company linked to the Guptas. The company was paid a R30-million advance without the deal going out to tender.  

Earlier this year, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) called for immediate forensic investigation in the North West Department of Health following allegations of corruption and wasteful expenditure linked to the Gupta family.

“People have a right to quality health care which includes nutritious food to assist the body in the recovery process. We will not stand by while vulnerable patients are malnourished and political fat cats turn a blind eye. The Mediosa scandal is still fresh in the minds of our communities and we cannot allow tender fraud of millions to rob innocent people in dire need of proper health care,” said Dr Tutu Faleni, the DA’s North West spokesperson on health.

“Patients in Mahikeng’s provincial hospitals will receive balanced meals that include meat,” said Faleni after visiting the hospital.