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Media Centre | COSATU Press Statements
Additional R332 million does not reinstate hospital beds
Western Cape NEHAWU and COSATU note with dismay that the 90 hospital beds cut recently at two city hospitals will not be reinstated through the R332 million allocated last week to the Department of Health. The Department was allocated an additional R129 mi llion from the provincial government and R203 million from the national government to address its budget shortfall.
The Western Cape Department of Health has since 1996 downsized the public health staffing complement by at least 40% in its attempts to manage reduced budgets allocated for service provision. This has also translated into a reduction of services at a gener al and specialist level of care. The recent cuts however has thrown the provincial health system into a even deeper crises.
Both Groote Schuur and Tygerburg Hospitals were forced to cut 60 and 30 beds respectively to address a budget shortfall. Both hospitals still have a shortfall of several millions of rands in their budgets after the bed cuts, which the Department of Health says it is monitoring every month. The department of health argues that the additional funds simply means no further cuts until March 2008. The additional funds then do not address the crises unfolding in the system.
The bed cuts are about transferring the burden of service provision elsewhere but tertiary or specialist services cannot be rendered at a lower level in the system so in fact the services are lost forever. The most immediate impact is on waiting lists for operations which are already long. Both institutions are required to implement other forms of savings as well which will include: savings in nursing staff, cut backs in clinical expenditure like blood testing & blood products, pharmaceutical laboratories, medical and surgical consumables, walk in clinics will have to reduce clinic visits by 50% to 70% to come within budget etc.
In order to manage a budget deficit the Western Cape Department of Health is attempting to provide level 1 services at the expense of level 3. All of the restructuring is driven by budgets and not by the needs of working class communities. Many Western Cap e Tertiary Hospitals provide specialist care to patients nationally and in the region. In addition the exploding HIV epidemic and deteriorating socio-economic conditions has placed a burden on the trauma loads and chronic diseases. Both hospitals had previ ously already closed several wards and reduced their operating time by 50% which directly translates to losing 50% of patients requiring specialist level care.
Patients wait up to 10 weeks at Groote Schuur for breast cancer surgery, wait up to 24 hours for an appendix operation, wait up to 12 hours for emergency trauma etc. All of the above translates into savings for the department as the savings are against pro jected over spending of R200 million. All of the savings translates into poor quality service delivery for working class communities who mainly use public health facilities.
Several organisations like NEHAWU, COSATU, TAC and the Groote Schuur Crises Committee have objected to the bed cuts and are preparing for a legal challenge on these matters. The Department of Health has on several occasions assured NEHAWU & COSATU that the y would reinstate the beds if they received additional funds. In an Argus article on 27th November 2007 we are told that the beds will not be reinstated as the additional funds will deal with the budget shortfalls across the system.
All levels of government continue failing poor people in matters of life and death as provincial and national budgets continue being prioritised to reflect budget surpluses, arms purchases, allocations for new soccer stadiums, etc.
For further comment contact Suraya Jawoodeen (0825585979) or Tony Ehrenreich (0827733194)