The DA is concerned that a number of factors are threatening the operationalization of the new mental hospital in Kimberley, placing it at a very possible risk of becoming a white elephant.
These factors include an obvious lack of funds coupled with internal management issues at the Northern Cape Health Department and within provincial government.
The new mental hospital, of which construction has been dragging on for more than 11 years already, remains at the centre of controversy for having time and again missed its completion dates and for non-stop escalating building costs.
A number of factors threatening the functioning of the facility, which is now due for completion early next year, were highlighted at a National Council of Provinces (NCOP) oversight visit to the facility yesterday:
– First and foremost is a total lack of funding for running costs for the facility, for which there is a shortfall of at least R240 million. So, until an allocation is made, either during the adjustment appropriation or even only in the 2018/2019 budget, the facility will have to stand unutilized;
– Secondly, is the fact that the Health Department is still placed under Section 18 of the PFMA, which in effect means that Provincial Treasury is holding the purse strings of this department. This could hamper operational decisions with regards to getting the facility up and running as speedily as possible; and
– Last, but not least, is the fact that there is still a moratorium on the filling of posts within the Health Department. Given the need for a big contingent of additional staff members to work within the new mental health hospital, this poses obvious challenges for the operationalization of the facility.
The DA is calling on Premier Sylvia Lucas to show leadership in the ongoing mental health hospital saga and to ensure that each of the above issues is urgently addressed to prevent any further delays in getting mental health care working in the Northern Cape. This is even more important now, given a submission yesterday by the ANC NCOP member Charl De Beer that the Free State would also be utilising Kimberley’s new mental hospital facilities.
It cannot be that a hospital, that has taken more than a decade to be completed at a cost of over a billion rand, runs the risk of becoming nothing more than a monument to corruption, while thousands of mentally ill patients in the Northern Cape and central South Africa are queuing up to receive treatment.
According to a study conducted by the London School of Economics and Political Science, 4.5 million South Africans suffer from depression. Many lives could be saved if access to treatment is extended.
The DA will continue to keep a close eye on further developments regarding the completion and operationalization of the new mental hospital.