THE Department of Health in the Eastern Cape has failed to crack the whip on health workers who have been paid a total of R67 million while refusing to perform work for two years after the closure of their hospital in 2021.
The Orsmond Tuberculosis Hospital in Kariega (formerly Uitenhage) was shut down after its services were rendered non-essential due to the drop in TB cases in the area. The patients were referred to nearby facilities, including clinics, to collect medication.
DA MPL Jane Cowley said: “Over the past two years, these employees have notched up salaries of over R67 million for doing nothing.”
Then the department reached an agreement with labour unions that staff members should move to other healthcare facilities of their choice.
Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth said in a written response to Cowley’s parliamentary questions: “The process (of redeploying them to other facilities) was done and completed. Forty-five employees refused to be allocated as per the advice given by their respective unions.”
Cowley said 28 medical and 17 non-medical staff remained at the hospital, which was now dysfunctional and no longer admitting patients.
Meth said the rebellious employees earned about R32m in the 2021/22 financial year, while the amount increased to about R36m during the following year.
Despite it remaining the white elephant, Meth said the department had incurred expenses of more than R7.3m from the facility in the past two years. She did not elaborate on how those expenses had arisen.
The MEC said the department undertook a process of managing the labour dispute.
“Agreement has been reached with labour that in the interim, whilst the bigger organisation-wide service delivery optimisation and organogram are under review, the remaining staff will be gainfully employed.
“All administrative matters pertaining to the Orsmond situation will be applied,” said Meth.
She said the redeployment process had finally been finalised last month.
Meth’s spokesperson, Mkhuseli Ndamase, has not responded to questions sent to him, including whether all the defiant employees finally agreed to the redeployment.
In her questions, Cowley had informed Meth that the employees prevented conversion on restructuring of the facility, demanding that such a decision should be made at the provincial bargaining chamber.
The provincial health department is allegedly under huge financial pressure and, according to Cowley, such a conversion or restructuring of the facility was unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future.
Cowley told Meth: “Medical staff have reportedly been deployed at the facility without there being a single patient in the facility, while nearby hospitals and clinics such as the Uitenhage Provincial Hospital, Rosedale Clinic, Town Clinic and KwaNobuhle Clinic are all severely understaffed.”
In a press statement released this week, Cowley said dire staff shortages in the province had crippled healthcare service delivery while the department was paying salaries to employees who were doing nothing.
She said most of these workers would normally stay at home and only report for duty whenever they felt like it.
“The hospital has an X-ray machine worth millions of rand and other life-saving equipment which could be used elsewhere.
“The department’s continued financial mismanagement, mismanagement of resources and failure to discipline non-compliant employees do not augur well for the future,” said Cowley.
Cowley raised concerns over the wastage of taxpayers’ money.
“This department is not only factually bankrupt but morally bankrupt, too.
“To date, no steps have been taken to discipline these employees, and it is unlikely that any action will be taken against them. We are all painfully aware of the government’s distaste for disciplining cadres,” said Cowley.