Gauteng NGOs taking care of the mentally ill suffer as health department delays payments

30 May 2021 - 16:18
By naledi shange AND Naledi Shange
The DA has lambasted the Gauteng health department for failing to pay NGOs tasked with caring for the mentally ill in Gauteng.
Image: Facebook/Sediba sa Dikgang The DA has lambasted the Gauteng health department for failing to pay NGOs tasked with caring for the mentally ill in Gauteng.

Dozens of NGOs that are taking care of mentally ill and physically disabled patients across Gauteng have been waiting for weeks for payment from the department of health, the DA said on Sunday.

The party’s Jack Bloom said the situation has resulted in suffering for thousands of mental health patients as staff go unpaid and even food is in short supply.

“These NGOs were supposed to be paid on May 7 but have still not been paid their subsidy of R4,900 per patient by the Gauteng health department,” said Bloom.

“The delay is due to new service level agreements that should have been signed earlier, and also because of the new financial year which started in April,” he added.

Bloom said sadly, this was nothing new.

“Every year there is a so-called ‘dry season’ where payments are delayed because the department is short of funds as the new financial year starts. Legal action has even been used in the past to get the department to pay,” he added.

Bloom said this was a huge inconvenience to the healthcare organisations who were also trying to provide care amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

He added that it was unfortunate that health facilities continued to feel the shortcomings of the health department, even after the Life Esidimeni saga that claimed the lives of at least 143 people.

Bloom said he had communicated with health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi on this issue, and officials had promised to pay by the end of last week, but by Sunday this had not happened.

Meanwhile, Mokgethi’s office acknowledged the failure to make all relevant payments.

In a response to questions sent by TimesLIVE, department spokesperson  Kwara Kekana said: “Some of the NGOs have already been paid. The finance team has indicated that [the owed] NGOs will be prioritised for payments to be effected as soon as possible.”

The department would not commit to a date of when the payments would be made.

NGO owner Charmaine Henning of Ebenzer House in Witpoortjie said the last time they had received payment was in March. 

Her facility has 26 patients and three employees. 

“They owe us now for two months — April and May. They keep saying we should keep patient and that we will be paid but we have not,” she said. 

“We are just lucky that we have some overdrafts on our accounts but we are reaching our maximum,” she added. 

Henning said she was aware of other NGOs that were barely keeping afloat. 

“They don't have overdrafts and have suppliers that expect payment at the end of each month ... I know an NGO that has had no hot water for the past two months,” she said. 

These NGOs, Henning said, are resorting to giving patients just bread which was a breach of the health requirements stipulated by the health department. 

“It is absolutely a train smash. We are waiting for another huge crisis to happen,” she said.