Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The City of Tshwane’s emergency services are in crisis mode following a grant cut at the end of  2018 which, among other things, threatened oxygen and medicine supplies in the metro.

Despite the diminished funds and the province saying it has officially taken over its emergency services, Tshwane still responded to more than 19,400 calls between July 2018 and January 2019.

Tshwane has more than 3-million residents and those who cannot afford medical aid are dependent on emergency services provided by the state.

The cut in the emergency services grant followed the move by the Gauteng department of health to completely take over emergency services in Tshwane, but this has resulted in a dispute between the metro and the province, which now has to be adjudicated by the National Treasury.

In terms of the constitution, provinces are mandated to provide emergency services, but in Gauteng the metros provide the services on behalf of the province in accordance with a memorandum of agreement between the two.

More than 14 years later, however, the province said it would take over emergency services as of July 1 2018 — but it has not been smooth sailing.  The move resulted in the grant, which was given to the metro by the provincial health department and originally budgeted for Tshwane’s emergency services, being cut from R102m to R40m in terms of a gazette published in November last year.

The Gauteng provincial government said the agreement was terminated, but the city is disputing this saying it never signed a termination agreement.

Mediation

The National Treasury now has to mediate on the outstanding payment of R30m, which was meant to be paid to the metro in October before the amendment to the grant. This has still not been done, and has left a hole in the Tshwane’s emergency services’ budget that needs to be filled.

Tshwane emergency services spokesperson Charles Mabaso said the city believes that non-payment of the October grant was “procedurally and legally flawed”, since the change was gazetted a month later. He said the city had taken measures to continue providing services even without the October payment.

Mabaso said all of the Gauteng emergency services’ vehicles and equipment had been returned over the past few months and that the province last supplied medication, intravenous fluids, patient documentation and oxygen in November 2018, as provided for in the memorandum of agreement.

The city has had to make emergency requisitions to buy its own supplies from a different supplier, to bridge the gap.

The provincial treasury, in a letter to Tshwane city manager Moeketsi Mosola last week and seen by Business Day, said the original agreement expired in 2017 and that it was extended to March 31 2018. The province claims it was then again extended to June 30 2018, after which the province was supposed to have taken over.

The letter stated that the health department withdrew the transfers to the city in line with the lapsed memorandum of agreement and that the money was re-allocated to the department’s budget.

The letter also said the original gazette, which provided for R102m, was done in “error”. This error has now resulted in the metro claiming “entitlement” to the balance of the funds, which was re-gazetted in November.

Arnold Malotana, CEO of Gauteng emergency services told Business Day that the money taken away from Tshwane was used to fill vacancies in the province, which had to appoint new emergency services staff.

He said it would be illogical to continue paying the city for a service the province rendered.

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