A Ministerial task team has been given six weeks to come up with recommendations to ensure the SA Military Health Service’s (SAMHS) three hospitals can function at optimum levels.
The establishment of the task team follows complaints from military health practitioners at SAMHS hospitals.
According to Joy Peter, Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s spokeswoman, the complaints were lodged directly with the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), SAHMS and the SA Medical Association (SAMA).
The hospitals are 1 Military Hospital in Thaba Tshwane (Officer Commanding Brigadier General N Maphaha), the SANDF’s flagship military medical facility; 2 Military Hospital (Officer Commanding Colonel I Bux), in Wynberg, Cape Town, which is currently undergoing a multimillion upgrade, and 3 Military Hospital (Officer Commanding FJ Matthee) at Tempe in Bloemfontein, where upgrade work has been completed.
Following receipt of the complaints, Mapisa-Nqakula met with representatives of SAMA and the Department of Defence last year. This, Peter said, was to find “effective ways” to address concerns raised.
“The Minister wishes to improve the working conditions of military medical practitioners, doctors, nurses, psychologists and others, in the military health system based on the outcomes of the investigation. This, in turn, will lead to improved medical healthcare services for a projected patient population of 293 000 members a year,” Peter said.
The Ministerial Medical Task team chaired by Professor William Makgoba has as its basic term of reference to identify factors negatively affecting optimal functioning of military hospitals. It is due to hand over its report to Mapisa-Nqakula on April 21.
In another development affecting the health of South Africa’s airmen, sailors and soldiers, Afrikaans daily Beeld reported SAMHS costs, as per the SANDF 2014 annual performance plan, amount to R4.3 billion. The medical arm of service was been allocated R3.5 billion by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in his national budget delivered to Parliament in February.
The newspaper said this put SAMHS in the situation where medical “line items” were knowingly under-budgeted for to ensure normal operating costs would be covered.