Department's debt spells trouble for Gauteng hospitals

Medical suppliers can’t afford to buy equipment for Gauteng hospitals because the health department owes them money, the South African Medical Device Industry Association (Samed) said on Wednesday.

“Some suppliers have notified the Gauteng department of health that they will put orders for medical products and services on hold, which will affect health services in Gauteng’s public hospitals,” Samed chief operating officer Tanya Vogt said in a statement.

She said some medical suppliers had received payments from the department but the outstanding amount had increased from R364.5-million in early December to R403.8-million by the middle of January.

“We’re issuing this statement because there may be confusion in the public’s mind as media reports earlier indicated that substantial payments have been made by the department,” she said.

“That may be true, but those payments did not go to suppliers of medical devices, but to institutions like the blood service.”

‘Lack of planning’
She said Samed would meet with the department on January 24 to discuss stock control and the procurement process for equipment.

“Samed believes it has expertise in the management, maintenance and utilisation of equipment, and wants to share it with Gauteng department of health so as to assist in the better use of resources,” Vogt said.

“There are good and committed people in these departments but the lack of planning, adequate forecasting and appropriate budgeting makes it difficult to operate at maximum efficiency.”

Last year, the Star newspaper reported that the department owed its suppliers R1.4-billion with some of the debt dating back three years.

In December the department paid the National Health Laboratory Service R51-million, the South African National Blood Service R13-million and six Gauteng municipalities collectively R160-million.

The health department was not immediately available for comment.—Sapa

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