File picture: Wesley Fester

Johannesburg - A nursing agency has stopped providing nurses to the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in west Johannesburg because it is owed R6 million by the Gauteng health department.

Jack Bloom, a Democratic Alliance (DA) member who shadows the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for health, Gwen Ramokgopa, on Monday said the anomaly was revealed in a written reply to his questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

Ramokgopa said three nursing agencies were being used by the hospital at the beginning of this year, but they stopped services in September because they had not been paid by her department.

Two of the agencies were paid in full on October 31.

However, the Nursing Services of SA agency was only paid R4.9 million and is still owed R6 173 045.

Bloom said Ramokgopa told the legislature that "amounts are loaded for payment" but due to cash allocation constraints the amounts owing remained unpaid. She said discussions were underway to resolve the matter.

The DA member of the provincial legislature warned that the withdrawal of agency nurses has led to staff burnout at the hospital. Bloom said two wards have been closed and three operating theatres have been "cut down to one".

"This is a sad effect of the department's ongoing financial crisis which increases the risk of medical negligence for the 14,000 births at this hospital every year," said Bloom, adding that it was essential that "extra money is found soon to pay the department's many debts, otherwise more companies will halt services with terrible consequences".