City Press 28 June 2020

Lack of infrastructure funding may collapse the commendable efforts of provincial departments

Provinces are running out of funds needed to create infrastructure to help cater for growing numbers of Covid-19 coronavirus patients.

The Western Cape, Gauteng and the Eastern Cape in particular are feeling the squeeze, as Covid-19 cases surged to more than 120 000 this week and more resources were needed.

The Western Cape provincial government says it has alerted national government of its lack of funds in the infrastructure budget for Covid-19.

Western Cape Transport and Infrastructure MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela told City Press that the funding issue is alarming because they need to secure more quarantine facilities to ensure that citizens are not left in the lurch.

“We had to redirect some of our budget to fight Covid-19 because of our responsibility to ensure that there are enough quarantine sites. The problem is that we do not have the funds to secure the number of beds that [projections say will be required],” he said.

The infrastructure development department is on schedule to hand over 526 beds by June 30 in different hospitals.

Tasneem Motara, Gauteng MEC for infrastructure development

Madikizela said President Cyril Ramaphosa was alerted to this matter during his visit to the Western Cape in the first week of the month. He said the president assured them that national government would be making funds available, however, this has not yet materialised.

“We made an appeal to the president when he was here because they have all the figures and the president made a firm commitment that we must go ahead and procure those sites, that money was not a problem because he was committed to helping us to fight the pandemic.”

Madikizela also raised the issue of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni making no mention of increasing infrastructure budgets during his emergency supplementary budget on Wednesday.

“The biggest concern we have is that after doing all that work, nothing was mentioned by the finance minister during the emergency adjustment budget.

“We have not received any [written] confirmation and that is a serious challenge. We were told that the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Gauteng would be the frontier of this pandemic, and you would expect government to make resource available,” he said.

Madikizela said the provincial government had only received R500 million, which equated to only 10% of the total amount that was agreed on.

He said they had sent a letter to the president to remind him of his commitment.

The Western Cape’s strategy has been focused on proactively identifying sites and assessing the most feasible facilities, but only activating operations when the need arises.

The province has the highest number of cases, standing at 57 941 as of June 26.

We had to redirect some of our budget to fight Covid-19 because of our responsibility to ensure that there are enough quarantine sites.

MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela

The Western Cape currently has sufficient capacity in place for anyone who needs to be quarantined or isolated. Madikizela explained that, ironically, while government continues to make plans to ensure that there is enough capacity, so far it has been difficult to convince people to be admitted to isolation and treatment sites.

The bed capacity in the province stands at 4 766, and 3 760 beds were available as of June 24.

Gauteng Finance and e-Government MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko said the provincial government was closely managing expenditure on Covid-19.

Speaking during a legislature sitting earlier this week, Nkomo-Ralehoko said Covid-19 had stretched and tested health infrastructure and services all round.

Vuyo Mhaga, spokesperson for Gauteng Premier David Makhura, told City Press that the province had to redirect funds to ensure that it could deal with the pandemic.

In a briefing held by the province on Thursday, Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku said the provincial government’s data showed a sharp increase of cases since the beginning of the month.

Gauteng had recorded 31 344 cases by June 26, accounting for a quarter of all infections in the country.

The province has 8 740 beds and is planning to add more beds through extending several hospitals.

“The process of adding beds and wards for Covid-19 is ongoing. The infrastructure development department is on schedule to hand over 526 beds by June 30 in different hospitals,” said Tasneem Motara, Gauteng MEC for infrastructure development.

The hospitals which are being upgraded include the Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital, Kopanong Hospital, Tshwane District Hospital, Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital, Helen Joseph Hospital, Steve Biko Academic Hospital, Discoverer’s Memorial Hospital and Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital.

“More beds are being prepared and will be handed over at the end of July and August. These numbers will be communicated in due course,” Motara said.

The Eastern Cape, which has one of the highest infections in the country and one of the most underresourced healthcare systems, last week made headlines for its bankrupt health department.

The province had recorded the third-highest number of infections (21 938) and 371 deaths by June 26.

The province recently revealed that it had been hit by financial woes owing to the Covid-19 outbreak and that it was already lagging behind regarding infrastructure to accommodate infected patients.

While Health Minister Zweli Mkhize was in the Eastern Cape to unveil a 3 300-bed field hospital in Nelson Mandela Bay on Tuesday, complaints have continued to pour in about the lack of infrastructure in the province.

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