DA Gauteng Health Spokesperson Jack Bloom. Picture: Independent Media

Johannesburg - The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Monday said telephone services to the Gauteng Health Department's head office had been cut off because of unpaid bills.

Telkom also cut off telephone services to a hospital in Soweto over an outstanding bill.

"Telephones at the Gauteng Health Head Office have been cut because Telkom has not been paid for many months. It is now impossible to get hold of staff at the head office using a land line, and the staff cannot phone out either. They have to rely on cellphones, which are expensive compared to a landline," said Jack Bloom, a member of the DA.

Bloom said attempts to telephone the health department were answered with a recorded message: "The number you have dialed is presently nomembert in service".

The DA Gauteng health spokesperson said: "In March this year the department owed R1.234 billion in late payments to 808 companies that had not been paid within the legally required period of 30 days. The department has also come under increased pressure because of court-ordered medical negligence payouts".

Bloom said the Bheki Mlangeni Hospital in Jabulani, Soweto, had also had its number cut because of non-payment.

"Furniture from the head office was recently removed by the Sheriff of the Court because a R6.2 million medical negligence award was not paid, Meanwhile, Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa, downplays the crisis as suppliers cut services and staff are unable to do their jobs because they don't have computers, desks and chairs, and cannot use telephone landlines," said Bloom.

The health department could not be immediately reached by telephone for comment.