The Standing Committee on Health supported Budget Vote 6 of the Western Cape Adjustment Appropriation Bill: Health. The ANC express a minority view not to support the budget vote.
The Department said than R2 billion has been added to the current budget but would love to get more for 2021. There was a reduction on compensation of employees and conditional grants.
Members asked how much the Department spent on the CTICC hospital; why the compensation of employees budget was reduced during this time of Covid-19 instead of addressing the shortage of personnel; why the Department has a budget for legal fees and asked if the Department was facing any legal cases that it had to pay for. Members commended the MEC and her HOD for the sterling work they did during Covid-19 even though the country was not out of the woods yet.
MEC for Health, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, reminded the Committee, in her introductory remarks, that the Department was coming from a very difficult year. More than R2 billion has been added to the current budget. The Department was not out of the woods yet. The Department would love to get more for 2021.
Dr Keith Cloete, HOD: Western Cape Department of Health, informed the Committee the Compensation of Employees (COE) has experienced a reduction of R759m as a result of a determination by National Treasury not to increase staff wages. There have been reductions on conditional grants. The provincial department decided to retain the money it has been given for Covid-19 pandemic. Credit should be given to the finance people of the Department in terms of providing stability, doing due diligence, and ensuring there has been not a single case of corruption reported.
Ms R Windvogel (ANC) indicated she was not supporting the budget - it has increased by R78m yet there was no money to be given to health workers.
Mr R Allen (DA) commended the MEC and her HOD for the sterling work they done during Covid-19 even though the country was not out of the woods yet. He wanted to know if there was now a sentiment from the Department that the province is able to deal with the current Covid-19 surge.
Ms A Bans (ANC) asked how much the Department spent on the CTICC hospital; and wanted to understand why the COE budget was reduced during this time of Covid-19 instead of addressing the shortage of personnel.
MEC Mbombo explained that the wage freeze was suggested by the national Finance Minister and was induced by the national Department of Health. This, in turn, had to be absorbed by the provincial department in freezing posts and reducing staff. The decrease in the COE budget has been taken from the overall budget of the Department. This has happened to other provincial departments as well. The Department had contract workers at the CTICC. When the Department decommissioned the hospital, some of the workers had to be absorbed by other provincial departments because some of them were from other provinces. She revealed the Department spent R52m on the CTICC, but the debt was incurred by the Department of Public Works. That amount of money would be transferred to Public Works. This happened at the height of Covid-19 pandemic and also to keep the Brackgate going. She pointed out there was an assumption that R600m for COE was taken from the provincial budget and that this case would be won by the unions against National Treasury regarding the suspension of wage increases, but that still has to be seen.
MEC Mbombo further pointed out it was important to understand the history of contract workers. During the 2018 bargaining chambers, it was resolved to increase the stipend of contract workers. This also meant increasing their hours from a half a day to 40 hours. That was part of the agreement with the unions. She stated contract workers cannot be treated as step-children of the health practitioners. As a result, different approaches came up: the NGOs must employ contract workers or buy their services once the NHI is adopted. The long term solution was that social workers should be contracted to the NHI. She said the model of the Department on contract workers was the way to go.
Ms Windvogel wanted to establish why the Department has a budget for legal fees and asked if the Department was facing any legal cases that it had to pay for.
Dr Cloete explained the Department has many cases where lawyers, on behalf of the people who had experienced damages from the Department, have taken the Department to court. The Department engages with the courts and trusts regarding claims. Monies that were claimed were lesser than those of other provinces. The claims of the Department so far exceed what the Department has budgeted for. The legal team ensures the Department pays the minimum in terms of claims. He further pointed out that additional money coming from the HIV Conditional Grant has been provided for community health workers.
The Chairperson asked Members to send further questions in writing. He asked Members to indicate if they support the budget.
Mr Allen supported the budget.
Ms Botha seconded the move.
Ms Windvogel did not support the budget.
The Chairperson indicated that the committee, having deliberated on the Adjustment Bill, resolved to support the budget vote, with the exception of the ANC which expressed a minority interest not to support the budget vote.
The Committee then agreed all recommendations and resolutions would be sent to the Committee Procedural Officer.
The meeting was adjourned.
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