Groote Schuur Hospital. Picture Leon Lestrade.

Cape Town - Specialised services and the provision of much-needed drugs for certain treatments would be affected if the national Health Department proceeds with a possible R173 million cut in its grant for the Western Cape’s three tertiary hospitals.

This is according to provincial Department of Health head Craig Househam, who said the combined medium-term grant for Groote Schuur, Tygerberg and Red Cross Children’s hospitals might be reduced by R54m for 2013/14, R58m for 2014/15 and R61m for 2015/16.

The national department, through its October adjustment budget, had told the province it would receive R2.4 billion for 2013/14, R2.53bn for 2014/15 and R2.65bn for 2015/16.

“The R173m is over three years and is a small cut in percentage terms, but it still is a lot of money. It will affect service delivery and the ability to provide specialised services,” Househam said.

He believed there was a connection between Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s plan to remove control of the three hospitals from the province, Health MEC Theuns Botha’s pledge to fight such a move and the possible grants cut.

“This is why I raised (the issue). I’m concerned. I feel it is a mistake,” Househam said.

Patients needing surgery might have to wait longer if the grant was cut. As it was, the R2.4bn grant received for the three hospitals was R500m short of the amount needed for them to function optimally. “The province makes up the rest with funds that could be used elsewhere.”

It is understood junior national health officials are working with the Treasury to finalise the department’s budget, and that this work is the source of the figures cited by Househam.

“The national department has confirmed our figures are accurate,” Househam said.

“I had a call from the director-general and I believe the minister has also heard about (the possible cut). They both indicated they had no knowledge of the cuts and would not support them. We are grateful if this is the case. We are waiting for confirmation.”

Comment from the national department could not be obtained before going to press.

Cape Times