Gauteng health department suspends six officials, including one for sexual harassment

11 October 2019 - 06:00 By Mpumzi Zuzile
Gauteng hospital corridors may soon be filled with patients, but empty of doctors.
Gauteng hospital corridors may soon be filled with patients, but empty of doctors.
Image: 123RF/Yuriy Klochan

The Gauteng health department has suspended six officials since the end of June, including two middle managers and one official accused of sexually harassing a staff member.

Twelve others who were suspended with the six officials - including three senior managers - have since had their suspensions lifted.

Health MEC Bandile Masuku revealed in the provincial legislature last week that the 18 officials were undergoing disciplinary action over charges ranging from abuse of sick leave, absenteeism, gross insubordination, sexual harassment, theft and compromising patient care.

The officials are still earning their salaries, which range from R128,000 to R1.4m per year.

Masuku was responding to oral questions by DA MPL Jack Bloom. He said the suspensions ranged from 24 to 111 days.

Those still under suspension included two middle managers, two social workers and two admin clerks.

Among those whose suspensions were lifted was a chief director of finance, a senior manager in administration and human resources, three doctors and four nurses.

"The positions range and include junior admin staff, health professionals, property caretakers and senior managers. The lowest annual salary being R128,193 and the highest being R1,409,478," Masuku said.

He said that investigations were under way in most of these cases, with the earliest charge having been issued in June 2019.

Asked why some cases took so long to process, Masuku said the intended time frame to complete the investigations was 60 days, but some matters were "complex".

Masuku said the department was developing a partnership with its district offices to ensure the speedy resolution of cases.

"We are to appoint a law firm with a labour background to focus on senior management disciplinary cases. We are also continuously training and developing labour relations practitioners. Currently, 22 are attending a dispute resolution course," he said.

Masuku also told the legislature that 189 Gauteng provincial government employees were doing business with the state, including supplying the state with medical equipment, catering security services and construction of projects.

Masuku however, could not answer how many of the 189 were health officials, saying he would only be able to give a comprehensive response next week.

In a statement, Bloom claimed that approximately 184 Gauteng health staff members had private businesses that have dealt with government departments, including their own.

Bloom expressed concern about staff doing business with the department, which has been the subject of "many corruption scandals".

Health in the past financial year underspent more than R751m of its R46.7bn. The health budget was meant for buying much-needed medication, to maintain infrastructure and to hire staff.

Health spokesperson Kwara Kekana last week said the bulk of the unspent budget was for the much-needed human papillomavirus vaccination to prevent cervical cancer among grade 4 girls in all public and special schools.

"There were reasons for underspending, which included but were not limited to late receipt of invoices. A number of non-profit institutions did not meet the qualifying funding criteria," she explained.

Some construction contracts had to be terminated owing to poor performance by contractors.