The Free State health department’s steadily increasing salary bill is crowding out spending on goods and services, Parliament heard on Wednesday. This means there is less money available to hire more personnel, medicines and equipment, and highlights one of the pressures the national government has faced in negotiating its next three-year wage deal with civil servants."In spite of a Treasury instruction for the cost of employment to be reduced by 0.05% in 2016-17, it increased from 63% [of the budget] in 2011-12 to 66% in 2017-18. The vacancy rate, however, remains high," Free State head of health David Motau told Parliament’s health portfolio committee.About 20% of the health department’s posts stood empty, he said. Part of the reason for the high vacancy rate was that appointments had to be approved by the provincial treasury, and its slow turnaround time meant potential employees often lost patience and accepted other job offers.Staff costs constitute 65% of the provincial health...

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