Seven years of neglect and waste as Qumbu hospital project sucks millions of rands

Construction continues at Nessie Knight hospital to refurbish a large part of the hospital.
Construction continues at Nessie Knight hospital to refurbish a large part of the hospital.
Image: SUPPLIED

Seven years after a R326m revamp project at Nessie Knight Hospital at Sulenkama Hospital in Qumbu was implemented, it is yet to be completed.

Construction companies either absconded or found their contracts terminated because of poor workmanship.

In written replies to DA MPL Jane Cowley on July 24, the provincial health department outlined a string of problems encountered in the course of the project.

The initial contract, for upgrading the existing building and replacing a large part of the hospital, was awarded to Khethwayo Construction at R37.6m. The contract was cancelled because of poor performance.

A total of R157.6m has been spent on infrastructure improvements, including bulk services, since 2013, according to health spokesperson Siyanda Manana.

Another construction company, SEBL Civil and Plant, absconded  in the  early stages of the project. SEBL was paid R488,962.

Camlulo Trading was  contracted at a cost of R8m to continue where SEBL left off, but the project was halted when the health department decided to build a staff housing complex at the hospital.

Construction of the staff cottages, at a cost of R105.3m, was itself  halted after complaints arose over tardy appointment of project managers, discovery of medical waste at the site, delayed removal of Eskom lines  and late payments to contractors.

The R105m for staff cottages was paid to Amanz' Abantu. Progress in this project was 93% complete at the end of July.

However, Cowley's ire was raised by the procurement of a replacement contractor to revamp the main hospital at an estimated cost of R41.4m. Work is set to start in November.

This week the public protector in the Eastern Cape launched an investigation into why SEBL Civil and Plant absconded  and patients were housed in a dilapidated building, among other matters.

The Dispatch called the landline and cellphone number for the company and both rang unanswered. A message sent to the cellphone number was not responded to.

During a visit to the hospital last week, deputy public protector Kholeka Gcaleka said the hospital building was not a conducive environment for staff to provide effective service.

Gcaleka's spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said her observations  included paint  peeling off cracked walls, broken washing machines, torn linen and ablution facilities shared by men and women.

He said staff at the facility “reported PPE, pool vehicle and water shortages”.

Segalwe said all  departments responsible for the hospital would be contacted during the investigation.

Thami Makuzeni, Eastern Cape manager for the Public Servants Association, said the association strongly condemned the “lack of accountability” within the provincial health department.

There was clearly no proper due diligence on the side of  hospital management, despite being entrusted with the fiduciary duty of administering the public finance

“There was clearly no proper due diligence on the side of  hospital management, despite being entrusted with the fiduciary duty of administering the public finance,” Makuzeni said.

Cowley said the health department needed to be held accountable.

“It is really unacceptable that this blatant abuse of budget is swept under the carpet, particularly as our citizens now cannot access decent healthcare or services at the facility,” she said.

The public works department's assistant director of communications, Siphokazi Ncanywa, told the Dispatch a contractor was on site “to do refurbishments at the male ward, female ward, TB ward and Umhlobo building”.

Manana told the Dispatch a hospital upgrade was supposed to follow after bulk services were installed. “However, this could not be implemented due to the department’s budgetary constraints, and as a result a rationalised Phase 4 was conceived”.

“This was meant to be a short-term intervention to address urgent maintenance needs of the hospital to enhance its operations,” he said.


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