In this special report, SINO MAJANGAZA visits a number of provincial hospitals and finds the vast majority to be sorely wanting, despite old government promises

R4bn cost for a mess

The UDM’s Bantu Holomisa lambastes the condition of the Eastern Cape

The dilapidated male ward at the Nessie Knight Hospital in Qumbu is in fact endangering patients’ lives.
The dilapidated male ward at the Nessie Knight Hospital in Qumbu is in fact endangering patients’ lives.
Image: Sino Majangaza

A grand government promise of a R4bn-upgrade of dilapidated and collapsing provincial hospitals is riddled with lies.

A Daily Dispatch investigation into the 13 hospitals found that the provincial health department’s declared intention to rescue hospitals from decrepitude, and build fine new ones, was far from the truth.

In 2013, the Dispatch investigated the state of the province’s hospitals, visiting more than 20. When the department became aware of the investigation, it placed a full-page advert in the paper, giving details of a R4bn upgrade, and ground-up construction of several hospitals.

Seven years later, the Dispatch has found that out of 13 hospitals which were promised a massive upgrade, very little or even nothing has happened at eight of them.

Upgrades to the St Elizabeth Hospital in Lusikisiki and Mjanyana Hospital in Ngcobo have stalled, while no work was being done at the Nessie Knight Hospital in Qumbu, where patients live in fear of the buildings collapsing and killing them.

Only St Patrick’s in Bizana and Cecilia Makiwane in Mdantsane have been completed.

While the multimillion-rand upgrade of Frontier Hospital in Komani is under way, shocking conditions were found at four of the hospitals visited by the Dispatch.

Doors hung on bent hinges, windows were boarded with metal and plastic, ceilings were brown with mould, plaster had fallen off walls and cracks were showing.

In one ward, two sad-looking children lay in tatty old beds wearing shabby hospital gowns with no buttons.

A former MEC of health, Sicelo Gqobana, who condemned one hospital in 2011, was horrified when the Dispatch called him last week and said the hospital was still functioning.

He said this was a “human rights issue”.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa laid blame for the decaying hospitals and general decline of infrastructure on bad leadership of the province.

He said: “The Eastern Cape has been targeted by these unscrupulous people who are unfortunately working hand-in-hand with the provincial leaders and government officials to bankrupt the province.”

He said the upgrade of the Mthatha Airport had seen R67m down the drain in the first phase, but no one was arrested and there were no consequences.

“We had to come up with plan B because everything was being prepared for Mandela’s last day. The Defence Force was roped in to finish off that programme,” he said.

Holomisa said the infrastructure left over from homeland governments had been falling apart, “but monies are reported to have been injected to improve the situation”.

“Even if you go to Mthatha General Hospital, which used to be the hospital for referrals in the past, it is in shambles.

“There is zero maintenance. It is because they like to do this outsourcing business. In the past these hospitals and clinics were working because you had insourced people.”

He said: “With the change of government they [the provincial leadership] gave business to their friends who sometimes did not even have skills, nor even equipment.”

Holomisa said the Eastern Cape should be taken over by the national government for 10 to 15 years to improve the infrastructure and develop it.

“It is very bad. The hospitals, clinics and schools that were built by [Lennox] Sebe and [KD] Matanzima are in a bad state. Government buildings are neglected,” he said.

He said the province could not rely on the current leadership and politicians in the province. 

“They are rotten to the core. The best is to appoint an administrator so that the budget can be monitored from national. If you give them money they misuse it,” he said.

DA MPL and shadow MEC for health Jane Cowley said heads should roll, “including that of head of department with whom the buck should stop”.

Cowley said the department of health’s infrastructure section had failed dismally to complete or even initiate projects that were budgeted for for as far back as 2012.

“Financial mismanagement is commonplace and has resulted in a contingent [general] liability in excess of R29bn in this department alone,” she said.

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