A student heads to the Great Hall at Wits University, Johannesburg. Picture: SIHLE MAKU/THE TIMES
A student heads to the Great Hall at Wits University, Johannesburg. Picture: SIHLE MAKU/THE TIMES

The University of the Witwatersrand has denied owing any funds to the Gauteng Department of Health.

The university was responding to statements reportedly made by the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH)‚ alleging that Gauteng-based universities owe the department R2.7-billion for the funding of joint appointments of health professionals‚ particularly those serving in clinical training programmes.

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said on Saturday that in line with the province’s conditions of service‚ joint appointees had historically been paid by the provincial government through the Healthcare Professions Training and Development Grant allocated for this purpose.

The allocation to the GDoH for the 2017/18 financial year was in excess of R800-million for this purpose‚ she said.

"Wits is of the view that the GDoH may be misreading the contents of a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) that was entered into between Gauteng-based universities and the GDoH in 2008‚ and reviewed in 2016 through the office of the former MEC for Health.

"Whilst the MoA largely focused on establishing conducive working conditions for the training of jointly appointed healthcare professionals‚ there was a clear undertaking by both parties to explore and evaluate the costs for the provision of clinical training in the future. To date‚ no further discussions have taken place and no agreement has been reached in this regard‚" Patel said.

She added that any such arrangement would obviously entail transferring the state subsidy allocated for joint healthcare professionals from the GDoH budget to university budgets.

"Wits University is of the view that for as long as the state subsidy remains in the GDoH budget‚ the department is obliged to pay for healthcare professionals. The University thus categorically denies any assertion that it owes the GDoH any funds for joint health professional appointments.

"Wits University believes that it is irresponsible for the GDoH to make unfounded statements in the public domain before the department has met with university leaders. A meeting between Gauteng-based universities and the GDoH is scheduled to take place in the coming weeks to clarify any misconceptions.

"The training of healthcare professionals is critical to the people of South Africa and a priority for the University. The University thus remains committed to putting to bed these unfounded claims as soon as possible‚" Patel said.

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