Family members gather outside the Gauteng health department in Johannesburg at a vigil on October 27 2016 for 37 patients who died after the department moved them from the Life Healthcare Esidimeni psychiatric hospital to community-based NGO care centres. Picture: SOWETAN

The South African Human Rights Commission is considering launching a full-scale inquiry into the state of hospitals in Gauteng.

The commission visited Jubilee District Hospital in Hammanskraal in the province on Tuesday to investigate complaints about long queues‚ a shortage of medication‚ staff with bad attitudes‚ poor infrastructure‚ low morale and a general shortage of staff at the facility.

Jubilee District Hospital celebrated 60 years of existence in 2016 and is now struggling with an influx of patients as the area it serves has expanded over the years.

Speaking to TimesLIVE‚ the commission’s provincial manager, Buang Jones, said he was concerned about the state of the hospital.

"We interviewed patients who lamented the fact that they have to wait for a long time to get their files.… Some said they have to spend the whole day at the hospital without getting assisted‚" Jones said.

He‚ however‚ commended staff at the hospital for trying their best under difficult conditions.

"The hospital services 33 feeder clinics and 10 other clinics from the North West province. People also come from as far as Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Overall‚ the people that we interviewed were not happy with the service at the hospital‚" he said.

Jones said the staff told the commission that since a recent visit by health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa‚ there had been improvements but he warned that the vacancy rate for doctors stood at 40% at the facility.

"They really have to address this‚" he said.

Jones said the commission would send formal correspondence to the hospital‚ which required a response. Depending on the response‚ the commission would decide "whether there is a need to conduct a provincial inquiry into the entire health system in Gauteng because we see recurring challenges."

"Some of these require the commission to summon the head of department and the MEC to come and account.…The health system in the province has had challenges for a number of years. I think what is happening now is a culmination of mismanagement‚ corruption and maladministration; in some instances dereliction of duty‚" said Jones.

The Gauteng department of health received a budget higher than that of education. Its budget increased by R4.4bn to R46.4bn in the 2018-19 financial year. This was about 38% of the total provincial budget.

The provincial treasury did this to allow the department to deal with its financial woes and get back to providing quality health services.

The National Treasury also came on board‚ ring-fencing funds to enable the department to deal with accruals in the medium-term expenditure framework. The move then allows all units in the department to start the financial year on a clean slate‚ spending money where it matters.

Ramokgopa has already started filling key posts like the chief financial officer‚ head of department and head of legal‚ which are crucial to stabilising the provincial department.

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