/ 17 October 2007

DA slams Manto’s Baragwanath visit

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng on Wednesday criticised Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang for threatening to take action against nurses who placed babies in a cardboard box at Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, the party said.

DA spokesperson Jack Bloom accused Tshabalala-Msimang of a display of ”arrogance and an evasion of blame” on her visit to the health institution on Tuesday.

”On her visit to the hospital, Tshabalala-Msimang showed little understanding for fundamental changes that are needed there,” said Bloom.

He said the minister’s policies had led to an inadequate budget, staff shortages and an outdated management structure at the hospital.

”Unfortunately, we have seen little innovative thinking in the Health Department under Tshabalala-Msimang, who prefers to deny problems and to shift blame onto others,” he said.

Earlier this month, media reports showed newborn babies in the hospital in cardboard boxes instead of cribs.

On Tuesday, the minister and Gauteng provincial minister of health Brian Hlongwa visited the hospital to deliver baby cribs that had been donated both privately and through the Health Department.

Hlongwa said a task team investigating the conditions at the hospital should complete their work within a fortnight.


Earlier in October, it was reported that the national and provincial health departments had said that telephone bills and furniture were prioritised over hospital equipment at the hospital

In a joint statement, the departments cited ”deficiencies on the management side” as the reason the hospital did not have required equipment.

”The management of the hospital has failed to prioritise the core functions of the hospital in the allocation of about R1,1-billion annual budget allocated to the hospital,” the statement said.

This emerged after the health departments appointed the task team to investigate the conditions at the hospital’s neo-natal and maternity sections.

The investigation was initiated in response to a report in the Star newspaper, carrying pictures of three newborn babies lying in a cardboard box.

The report said the hospital had its equipment budget cut by more than half this year in order for the province to buy ”big-ticket” equipment for other Gauteng hospitals. This meant expenditure at Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital was put on hold until next year or longer.

”The [task] team established that the hospital was spending more than R9,4-million on telephone accounts per year, while only R7-million was allocated for procurement of all medical equipment including bassinettes, cot beds, infusion pumps, blood-pressure machines etc,” the health departments said.

National Health Department spokesperson Sibane Mngadi said a further example was the facility allocating R7-million to acquiring furniture, which was the same amount allocated to acquiring new equipment.

”Clearly there is abnormality there that needs to be addressed,” he said. — Sapa