Debt gobbles hospitals’ 2014 budget allocation

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THE country’s ill-equipped hospitals received literally nothing from the 2014 National Budget after it emerged yesterday that the $23,8 million allocated to health institutions will be gobbled up by a $36,4 million debt accrued last year.

VENERANDA LANGA

Secretary for Health and Child Welfare Gerald Gwinji told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care that the ministry owed $36,4 million to different suppliers.

The Ruth Labode-led committee heard that the debt would seriously affect most programmes run by the Health ministry.

“The total allocation to the hospitals amounts to $23 million and these institutions owe suppliers $36,4 million,” Gwinji, who was accompanied by the ministry’sfinance director Leornard Mabhandi, said.

“Effectively, the institutions have no budget for 2014 as they still need to finance the gap of $12,6 million, but the revenue that they raise is not adequate to cover the gap and finance current needs.”
Gwinji said total expenditure on employment costs for 2013 amounted to $213,2 million leaving $12,8 million to take care of salary adjustments and any possible changes in numbers of staff for 2014.

He said this created an opportunity for his ministry to employ
11 000 new health workers including nurses whose posts were frozen.

“We do have a gap in filling in the current establishment of 7 000 nursing posts.  We want them this month if possible, but with advice from Treasury we have to stagger their recruitment.  We will employ a further 2 400 to support mission and local authority hospitals.  We expect to get around 11 000 new health workers, but this all depends on Treasury support,” he said.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike urged government to prioritise health issues and do something about the freezing of posts.

“The freezing of posts applies to the Health ministry and yet every month we have a police passout parade which means other ministries are employing,” Rusike said.

Gwinji said there was lack of donor support on mental health care as most donors were interested in the mitigation of HIV.

Labode said the committee will visit NatPharm, which is facing a $2,5 million debt to familiarise with its challenges and recommend the way forward.

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