Johannesburg - Gauteng MEC for Finance Barbara Creecy announced on Tuesday that the provincial government has allocated R28 million to the Office of the Premier to honour its commitment to compensate the families of the victims of the Life Esidimeni tragedy.
Last month during the arbitration hearings, the provincial government reached an agreement on individual compensation with the families of the 144 mental health victims who died during the botched transfer of patients to unlicensed NGOs.
Delivering the 2018/19 provincial budget of R121 billion at the Gauteng Legislature, Creecy apologised and said that she was sincerely sorry for the tragedy, saying that she wished she could have done more to prevent the provincial Department of Health from cutting its costs through the health of psychiatric patients.
"Honourable members, as you all know we are currently awaiting the final report from Justice [Dikgang] Moseneke on the Life Esidimeni tragedy. What we know at this stage, is that agreement has been reached with the families of the victims in relation to individual compensation. An amount of R28 million is allocated in this budget to the Department of the Premier, to honour this commitment," Creecy said.
"Allow me to take a moment to repeat in this House my words to the families when I gave evidence at the hearing in January: the testimony of suffering and cruelty I listened to in the course of the hearings has never left me. It filled me with shame that I was part of this government when this terrible tragedy happened. If as a result of the testimony I gave at the hearings, you feel that there were things which I should have done as MEC of Finance which I did not do, I apologise, deeply and sincerely."
Creecy also said that the executive council sub-committee on health was working to stabilize the finances of the provincial Department of Health and mitigate the risk that accruals pose to the provincial fiscus, with the root causes of over-spending, and ensuring corrective action leads to sustainable solutions.
She said that research reveals that over the past 14 years, per capita spending on healthcare for Gauteng's residents had increased from R2 500 to R4 500 per person per year. This in effect meant that the department was borrowing from its suppliers to fund current services.
"This solution is unacceptable and cannot continue," Creecy said.
"Accordingly, we are working with the Department of Health on a package of remedial measures which includes shifting resources to fund personnel and goods and services, cutting expenditure on non-core costs, holding managers to account for expenditure within budget in every health facility, putting a moratorium on new infrastructure projects and services until we have paid off all the accruals and, prioritising filling frontline clinical posts."
Creecy said that once the debt is eliminated and operations are within budget, savings can be redirected to support the extension of infrastructure or new services.
African News Agency/ANA