KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu has appointed seasoned health practitioner and academic Ronald Green-Thompson to help overhaul the provincial health department.
The department was in the spotlight recently after reports suggested the province’s public hospitals have collapsed due to shortages of staff, equipment and facilities.
The reports said doctors who specialise in treating cancer were nonexistent.
In June a damning, 68-page report by the South African Human Rights Commission found that the department had failed its cancer patients.
The deteriorating situation led opposition parties to call for the resignation or dismissal of health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo, a call snubbed by the ANC.
The province has set aside R1.4bn for the overhaul.
Green-Thompson was the head of the KwaZulu-Natal health department from 1995 to 2005. He oversaw the amalgamation of the KwaZulu government health facilities and the apartheid-era Natal Provincial Administration-run hospitals.
He was part of the task team appointed by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to deal with the KwaZulu-Natal health crisis.
Mchunu said Green-Thompson and his team would "accelerate interventions focusing on the reconstruction of dilapidated hospitals and building of new hospitals and clinics".
"We expect Prof Green-Thompson to strengthen human resource management including recruitment processes to deal with the shortage of health professionals and clinicians in particular," Mchunu said.
Opposition parties largely welcomed the appointment.
"It is clear that the department requires more expertise and this is one of them. We hope that he will work very hard to turn around this situation and end the crisis facing the department at the moment," the DA’s provincial health spokesman, Imran Keeka, said.
"However, we still maintain that this is not enough and we believe they should … get rid of the MEC for health as he has presided over this mess for the past eight years without doing anything about it."