The Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Mr Amos Masondo, appealed to management of both Chris Hani Baragwanath and Charlotte Maxeke Academic hospitals to find innovative ways to improve maintenance of the ageing infrastructure and human resources challenges at their facilities, writes Xihlamariso Ngoveni.

The Chairperson and permanent delegates to the NCOP were conducting oversight visits at the two hospitals on Monday, 28 March, where they met with management, high ranking officials from the Gauteng Provincial Health Department, Provincial Department of Infrastructure Development, Members of the Gauteng Legislature and other stakeholders to take stock of impediments to delivery of health services to Gauteng residents.

The NCOP delegates identified poor maintenance of the ageing infrastructure and human capacitation as some of the major challenges that the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital needs to find solutions to urgently. Other challenges identified include:

● The hospital staff establishment is not aligned to the workload
● Workload and demand are not proportional to available staff (last reviewed in 2006 – Population size has grown substantially since then)
● High staff turnover as a result of unbearable workload – medical personnel resign to go work in smaller facilities where the workload is bearable
● There are currently 509 Unfunded vacancies due to lack of funds
● Old infrastructure and slow process of refurbishment
● Late payment of suppliers

The hospital’s vacancy rate is currently at 14,3% and could not be addressed due to the lack of funding. The hospital admits up to 10 000 patients a month.

The leader of the NCOP Delegation in Gauteng, Mrs. Winnie Ngwenya, reminded the CEOs of the purpose of the Provincial Week and emphasized that the visits don’t aim to witch-hunt or point fingers, but to ensure that service delivery is prioritized.

The NCOP delegates proceeded to Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital where they were briefed on the progress made towards fully reopening the facility since the fire incident that gutted the hospital in April 2021.

Some of the issues identified at the facility include:

• Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital is non-compliant with the City of Johannesburg’s fire requirements
• Slow progress in planning with no significant implementation from the Provincial Department of Infrastructure Development
• Initial delays with getting the correct individuals involved from Gauteng Department of Health
• Maintenance funds used for remedial work in Radiation Oncology resulting in significant over-expenditure on maintenance budget
• Fire damaged area propped for initial investigation, but no work done thereafter for 10 months
• Delays in signing donation agreements and handover
• 10 months after the fire, the only work being done at the hospital was work sponsored by Solidarity with no clear project plan or source of funding.
• The hospital remained partly open with significant infrastructure challenges identified

NCOP Chairperson, Mr Masondo, expressed grave concern with the slow pace at which the refurbishment of the damaged building has been taking place. The NCOP requested the hospital management to submit a report by Friday with clear timelines on the plans to fully reopen the facility.

He welcomed the efforts made to keep the hospital afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, and encouraged the hospital not to downplay the institution’s iconic status and rich history.

The NCOP Provincial week programme continues today with the delegates meeting with the Premier of Gauteng, Mr David Makhura, and his executive at the Gauteng legislature. This will be followed with a briefing by the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Mr Senzo Mchunu.

Briefings are also scheduled with the Local Government and Health Members of the Executive Committee (MECs) at the Gauteng Provincial Legislature chamber.