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Limpopo - Newborns at WF Knobel Hospital in Limpopo are being washed with cold water because the rural hospital does not have enough staff to operate the boilers.

This is according to the hospital board’s chairman, Hlalifi Moloto, who described the situation at the hospital as “a joke”. He claimed this had been going on for years.

“Between 11am and 3pm, the water is cold. Nurses in the maternity ward are forced to wash babies with cold water because the two boiler operators will be off-duty.”

He said the hospital needed at least four boiler operators to run shifts.

Justifying the decision to break his silence, Moloto said Health MEC Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba and district officials had shown no interest to resolve the crisis.

“I have talked to all the three MECs before (Letsatsi-Duba), nothing has happened. I tried three times to secure a meeting with her; she has never responded,” Moloto said about Letsatsi-Duba.

The hospital services 110 villages in the Moletjie, Mashashane, Maraba and Ga-Matlala areas.

Moloto said it had a 51 percent vacancy rate, which translates to 390 vacant posts.

He said the hospital needed more nurses, data capturers, administration officers, cleaners, cooks and boiler operators.

Senior management at the hospital was non-existent, Moloto said.

“The positions of senior clinical manager, nursing manager, human resource and development manager, allied manager and quality assurance manager are vacant and no one is acting in those posts.”

He said the positions had been vacant for the past two years.

“The hospital CEO is acting,” said Moloto.

He said internal staff members were reluctant to act in the vacant positions because the Health Department refuses to pay them acting allowances.

The Star has seen an internal circular issued by department head Sipho Kabane in January that suggested the department was in a financial crisis.

“The implication of this state of affairs is that when a post is vacated, it does not generate a saving which can be used to compensate an appointment in (an) acting position, in as much as the post cannot be filled since it would no longer be funded,” the circular read.

For the financial year that ended in March, the Health Department had been allocated a R13 billion budget.

Health is one of the five provincial departments that were placed under national administration in 2011 for maladministration and financial mismanagement that plunged the province into a R1.7bn deficit.

The department has had four different MECs since 2009.

Limpopo premier Stan Mathabatha said in March the province had improved to a “positive cash position of R4.4 billion” as of the end of January. Moloto said this money should be used to employ medical personnel.

“We say we are saving money, but, in fact, we are killing people,” said Moloto.

Health Department spokeswoman Adele van der Linde acknowledged receiving questions sent to her last Thursday.

On Monday, her cellphone rang unanswered and she did not respond to text messages.

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The Star