NATIONAL ASSEMBLY THURSDAY, 13 MAY 14:00 – 16:15 MINI-PLENARIES (VIRTUAL) 1. Vote 18: Health [Hon. MD Hlengwa]

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Health on Budget Vote 18: Health, Annual Performance Plan of the Department of Health, and its Entities, dated, 11 May 2021

Honourable Members, as we consider the Committee’s Report on the Department of Health and related Entities’ budget – we cannot ignore the grim reality of our current situation. We are amid a deadly pandemic that directly calls into question our Government’s efforts to roll out vaccines. 

The President, in his recent newsletter of 10 May 2021, called for global solidarity to ensure that Covid-19 technology is accessible to all, to allow for the local production of vaccines. The IFP fully agrees that equitable access to vaccines is critical. However, this does not answer the looming question about our Government’s slow roll-out response. We must face the facts. South Africa fares very poorly in the global roll-out of vaccinations. This is not only in comparison to rich countries but also in comparison to our neighbouring countries. In the United Kingdom, according to a research group, Our World in Data, 52.25% of the population had already been vaccinated by 10 May with one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Namibia, at this date, had already vaccinated 1.29% of its population. However, South Africa, in comparison, had only vaccinated 0.67% of the population.

We cannot accept our Government’s slow response. The public has a right to be properly informed of the Government’s vaccine programme and we fully support the Committee’s view that the Department should strengthen its communication regarding the roll-out programme.

Honourable Members, the enormous task of vaccinating at least 40 million people by the end of the 2021/2022 financial year, as the Department of Health envisions, must be seen against the fact that our primary healthcare facilities, as noted by the Report, may not be properly equipped to assist in this enormous task. Adequate infrastructure is a critical aspect, which needs to be urgently addressed. We must ensure our primary healthcare facilities have adequate storage, infrastructure and systems available to administer the vaccine programme.

The IFP is also concerned about the impact of the enormous cut of 16.3% in indirect grants, which will inevitably have a significant effect on national programmes, especially infrastructure projects, it seems. It is alarming that the Report notes that the establishment of oncology services in vulnerable provinces, which is a longstanding and critical issue, will inevitably be further delayed by these budget cuts. The IFP strongly endorses the Committee’s recommendation that the Department must furnish the Committee with an action plan aimed at addressing the infrastructure backlog. 

Honourable Members, the fight against corruption remains a constant battle. In these desperate times, we cannot allow access to healthcare services to be undermined by corruption and lack of governance. The Auditor-General and her team are working endlessly to monitor the financial management of Covid-19 initiatives and we salute their hard work and commitment to ensuring accountability. The IFP strongly supports the Committee’s recommendation that the Department should provide feedback on implementing the Auditor-General’s recommendations and the IFP will closely monitor such progress reports.

The IFP supports the report.