Gauteng Health faces staunch criticism for suspended hospital landlines

Gauteng Health faces staunch criticism for suspended hospital landlines. Picture: File

Gauteng Health faces staunch criticism for suspended hospital landlines. Picture: File

Published Mar 23, 2024


Just days after the Public Service Commission (PSC) warned of the worrying trend of government departments continuing to pay suppliers late, health-care facilities have become the first to feel the negative impact of delays.

For the past three weeks, the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) confirmed that a number of health-care facilities’ Telkom landlines were off due to payment queries lodged on the invoices submitted by the service provider.

As many as 32 hospitals and 38 clinics were reportedly affected at the start of the week.

By the end of the week, only 11 hospitals were affected, namely the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, Steve Biko Academic Hospital, Pretoria West Hospital, Jubilee Hospital, Pholosong Hospital Weskoppies Hospital, Far East Rand Hospital, Tara H. Moross Psychiatric Hospital, Tshwane District Hospital and Carltonville Hospital.

Motalatale Modiba, the department’s spokesperson, said the department had processed the current invoices for payment before the end of the week despite the fact that its dispute in relation to identified discrepancies still stood.

He said the issue of invoices which have descriptions of facilities that do not belong to the GDoH were still being pursued with Telkom.

“The Department is currently in the process of migrating its facilities to the Gauteng Provincial Voice Network system, operated by the eGovernment Department, which will drastically reduce the costs of communication within institutions and externally.

“Already, the majority of our facilities have been migrated to the new system. We wish to apologise for the inconvenience that has been caused to the public who have been trying to contact various facilities. Once the payments have cleared on Telkom’s side, the affected facilities should have their lines reactivated as early as possible,” Modiba said.

The department has since released a number of alternative contact numbers for the affected facilities.

The DA’s spokesperson for health, Jack Bloom, criticised the department’s delay in payments as he said the claim to be disputing the Telkom bills meant that this issue should have been sorted out long ago.

“I suspect they have simply run out of money as the financial year draws to an end on March 31. An astounding R2.275 billion overspend is projected despite not meeting key targets, including poor ambulance response times and low child immunisation.

“This department can’t get simple things right, like paying bills on time, never mind running a decent ambulance service and immunising all children. It remains mired in crisis because of gross mismanagement, despite all the promises for improvement,” said Bloom.

Earlier this month, PSC Commissioner Anele Gxoyiya released the organisation's quarterly news bulletin covering the period between October 1 and December 31, last year, which revealed that 23 national departments nationwide were struggling to meet the requirement of ensuring payment to service providers within a 30-day period.

Gxoyiya raised concerns that only 17 out of 40 national departments had reportedly fully complied with the national requirements in terms of paying on time, as compared to the first quarter which saw only 15 being compliant.

The North West province was cited as the province with the highest number of invoices paid late, with as many as 14 676 invoices to the value of R759 million.

In second place came departments within the Eastern Cape who were sitting with 12 757 invoices valued at R1.7 billion.

Gxoyiya said his biggest concern stemmed from the fact the delays in the payment of suppliers were not only a violation of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) but also strained many Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs).

Saturday Star

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