Mr. Gillion Pudumo Mashego (MEC) Image supplied by

Mpumalanga health system bankrupt and broken

The Mpumalanga healthcare system serves 88% of the province’s population – it’s also R1 billion in debt, unable to buy medicine or hire new staff.


Mr. Gillion Pudumo Mashego (MEC) Image supplied by

The decision to remove Gillion Mashego from his administrative position within the Mpumalanga health department was greeted by applause. Yet, following the Member of the Executive Council’s (MEC) departure, the Mpumalanga health system still teeters on the brink of ruin.

Former health MEC, Mashego, took leave of his position following calls from labour unions, communities and other stakeholders which include opposition parties.

Mpumalanga health system: R1 billion in debt

Following Premier Refilwe Mtshweni’s cabinet reshuffle, the financial crisis facing the Mpumalanga health system has been exposed even further.

A report by City Press addresses dire conditions in the province, as uncovered by the Democratic Alliance (DA). The DA is now calling for the department to be put under national governmental administration, in an attempt to rescue the local health system from complete collapse.

DA legislature member, Jane Sithole, believes that the situation is repairable, but only with proper managerial proficiency. Sithole says:

“This is a brave move by the premier, but changing an MEC doesn’t mean the financial crisis will go away. The new MEC will not be able to move because there is no money. The current budget is paying previous debts.”

Mpumalanga unable to buy medicine or hire new staff

The tangible catastrophe resulting from an indebted health system is its negative effect on patients. The Mpumalanga health system finds itself unable to procure new medicines or fill vacant health care positions.

The lack of vital healthcare resources will ultimately lead to patient neglect; citizens most vulnerable will be unable to secure life-saving healthcare – patients which chronic medication needs may struggle to acquire appropriate medicines.

The spokesperson for Mpumalanga’s health department has attempted to allay fear of a full system failure, by implementing a task team charged with reviewing and affecting new financial measures.

Spokesperson Dumisani Malamule maintains the department’s commitment to quality healthcare, saying:

“In addition, during its bosberaad the department developed a plan to deal with a number of challenges, including escalating accruals. The department is optimistic that the accruals will be reduced in the current financial year.”

Explaining the conditions which led to the present financial trauma, Malamule added:

“Due to funding gaps the department was unable to pay all invoices related to non-negotiable and key accounts.”

Malamule has placed blame on the unequal allocation of government funding for the province. According to the spokesperson, the department was funded with less than 27% of the provincial equitable share funding – a shortfall addressed by the Treasury in 2016.

Mpumalanga health crisis in numbers

Mpumalanga has a population of 4.4 million people; 3.9 million people (88% of the total population) depend on public healthcare.

During the 2017/2018 financial year, R364.6 million was spent on medicine, R112.4 million on medical laboratories, and R109.8 million and workers compensation/salaries.

The health department’s irregular expenditure has increased to R200 million while R6.7 billion in irregular expenditure is awaiting resolution.

The department is facing R70 million in litigation costs.

Mpumalanga’s health department is grossly understaffed and has 2 524 vacant posts that are struggling to be filled.