Steve Biko Academic Hospital is being plagued by constant equipment failures, staff shortages and postponed procedures. Picture: Sizwe Ndingane

Pretoria -

A cutback of R46 million in its annual budget of R1.3 billion this year is what has led to problems and an envisaged collapse of services at Steve Biko Academic Hospital.

Services there have been characterised by faulty equipment, shortages of consumables and the postponement of procedures.

The hospital, designed to cater for patients from regional hospitals in and around Gauteng North, has been overburdened by a high volume of patients, some coming in from the neighbouring provinces of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Free State.

“They are all dependent on the budget for half a province and this is what is crippling the hospital,” a doctor said.

The hospital has been hit hard by a lack of staff in all departments, including the intensive care unit (ICU). This has affected the carrying out of surgery and the cancellations of scheduled operations.

Staff at the hospital have told of a dire situation, in which they were forced to provide limited services to patients, because of the constant breaking down of equipment, lack of maintenance and shortages of consumables and “theatre features”.

The SA Medical Association’s acting chairman, Dr Mark Sonderup, said the hospital could only offer what they could acquire, and couldn’t offer that which they couldn’t pay for. He said that a cut in the budget could only affect the patient and the provision of patient care: “If you start cutting back on money spent in the public health sector, you are directly impacting on the population served,” he said.

Steve Biko Academic Hospital received a R1.3bn allocation from the Gauteng Department of Health’s R25bn budget in 2011, and overspent by R104m.

In a written reply to questions from the DA in August, Health MEC Hope Papo said the hospital had spent R1 414 000m after being allocated R1 310 000m.

“The hospital has had to therefore operate on R46m less than what it actually spent in 2011… it is unsustainable to run this hospital on such a lean budget,” said DA provincial spokesman on health Jack Bloom.

Of what was the projected R1 367 916m budget for 2012, R959 318m was allocated to the compensation of employees, R335 105m was for goods and services and R71 961m was to be set aside for machinery and equipment. Most of these services have suffered because of inadequate money in the hospital’s coffers.

The tertiary health-care institution has offered specialised and highly specialised services to referred patients, with state-of-the-art medical equipment like an MRI scanner, 64-slice CT scanners, totally digital radiology, picture archiving communication system and others. - Pretoria News