File picture: James Mahlokwane
The Gauteng Department of Health is faced with a massive shortage of equipment and dilapidated healthcare facilities, yet it failed to spend millions of rand meant to improve service delivery.

Despite various healthcare facilities across the province having broken lifts, malfunctioning airconditioners and lack of much-needed machinery, the department failed to spend the entire R2.1billion budget for capital assets.

This is according to the department's fourth-quarter report, which covers the January to March 2018 period, tabled during a sitting of the health committee on Friday, which revealed that only R1.5bn had been spent.

The department had a budget of R818.9m for buildings and other fixed structures but spent only R703m.

It had a further R1.312bn budget for machinery and equipment but spent only R860m. This means that R559m meant for the capital budget had not been spent.

A nurse who works at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital said lack of spending the allocated budget “spat in the face of healthcare workers”.

“We strive to give people the best service but it does not really help when there is lack of equipment in hospitals.

"Bara sees hundreds of outpatients on a daily basis, but do they get satisfactory service? I don't think so.

“People spend a lot of time in queues, waiting to be attended to. Could the department have used the money to extend the facility? Could that have made a difference in a patient's life? I think it would have,” said the nurse, with 20 years of experience.

MEC for Health Gwen Ramokgopa was greeted by complaints of staff shortages and broken machinery when she made an unannounced visits to the Leratong and Dr Yusuf Dadoo hospitals at the weekend.

She reportedly blamed lack of funding or the shortage of staff and equipment, but the fourth-quarter report shows that the department had not spent R559m meant for capital assets.

DA health spokesperson Jack Bloom said: “The (X-ray) machine at this provincial clinic was out of order for more than a month, which meant that about 40 patients a day could not get a quick diagnosis with X-rays.”

In April, Ramokgopa said five X-ray machines had broken down in several hospitals since January last year.

She said there was a need for a replacement plan for the machines, which were estimated to be 14 years old.

"The department's chronic inability to spend on capital assets continues in this financial year with a freeze on all new building projects.

"This means urgently needed projects like extra wards at the Edenvale and Tembisa hospitals and new hospitals in Kempton Park, Daveyton and Soshanguve will be further delayed," Bloom said.

“Because of overspending in other areas, the overall underspend for the 2017/18 financial year was R179m.

"This highlights poor financial management in a department that has a deep budget hole which leads to suppliers not paid on time and deteriorating health services."