Former Minister of Health and member of the Basotho Doctors whose company has shares in the Tšepong Consortium Dr ‘Molotsi Monyamane has lauded government for a bold move of making in-roads towards termination of the millions-guzzling contract for the running of the Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital commonly known as Tšepong.
Government announced this week that it was terminating its contract with Tšepong. This following an uproar caused by the axing of over 340 health services professionals for staging an industrial action over unsatisfactory salaries.
“The Contract is left with six years, by then there will be no money to pay. Divorce is always painful but the Government has taken the right route to Negotiate with Netcare to terminate the Contract. The Board Members had conflicting interests to the prioritization of improving the Health Sector,” said Monyamane who is also former Minister of Health.
“They may negotiate to terminate the Contract or buy out the remaining period of 5 to 6 Years. It will be the first time the government has had the guts to terminate the contract,” he said.
“The Shareholders fought amongst themselves and rendered the Board dysfunctional. The Government could not intervene since some of the employees who negotiated and were meant to protect the Government were former employees who were given free shares in Netcare.” he said.
Monyamane said by terminating, government stands to gain than to lose, saying that one of the gains would be the annual half million subvention, and would be able to do own staff competency screening. The four clinics which belong to Government will be supervised by Government. There will be no Unions Essential Services, as public servants are not allowed to go on strike, and they are allowed to have Associations not Unions.
ʺThose people in Tšepong are in business and those who benefit from the profits of the business will keep quiet, ʺ he added.
“The Ministry of Health did not supervise the Tšepong Hospital on Clinical Governance and Good Corporate Governance, Netcare was given a Management Contract to Manage the Government Hospital. There was no approval of referrals to Bloemfontein like we did at Queen II,” he said.
Monyamane said that, the Government of Lesotho closed Queen II Hospital to enable a flow of patients to Tšepong on the advice of Conflicted Consultants.
“Ministry of Health failed to attend a lot of meetings for Supervision. Patients who were referred to Bloemfontein were serviced by a group of Private Sector Specialists who charged twice the Medical aid rates,” he revealed.
Monyamane advised that, the Government has to see to it that Queen II is functional in 3 years.
Meanwhile, the government of Lesotho as instructed the Ministry of Finance together with the Ministry of Health to work towards cutting ties with Tšepong.
This was said by the Minister of Health Semano Sekatle who indicated that the process of terminating the agreement might take some time while the government is still taking legal routes.
Sekatle said, “The government also would like to inform all fired nurses from Tšepong that the government will work to make sure that they are reinstated to their posts once the termination of the contract is finalized,” he said
Sekatle further indicated that the government will engage in talks with Basotho companies that own shares and in operation at Tšepong to find out what can be done to continue delivering excellent health services to the nation.
“Lesotho signed working contract; Public Private Partnership (PPP) Agreement with Tšepong (Pty) Ltd with the aim that Tšepong will provide the plan, build the hospital, manage and control the hospital and its three clinics,” he said, adding however, that since day one on October 27, 2008 when the deal was signed, it had already started experiencing challenges.
Sekatle indicated that from the first day of operation, patients encountered problem as they were told that the hospital would only provide services to a limited number of patients.
“If the scheduled number is covered the remaining patients were sent back home and had to come back the following day,” he said.
“The example that shows that things were not right is the closure of Queen II hospital. That matter surprised the community of Maseru more than anything because they were wondering why they will have to go to clinics before they could go to the hospital. That showed they did not have the hospital. Most of our problems today are brought by not having knowledge and understanding of the agreement,” the Minister said.
Sekatle indicated that, “according to the contract Tšepong had to have insurance for any medical malpractice that may occur during operations but the hospital did not have the insurance. That means if any medical malpractice happens at Tšepong patients will not be protected,” he said.
According to the agreement Tšepong has to have private ward section where people that would be able to secure the space would be given services. “There is a section for private ward but it is not used as private ward. It was agreed that for the section the government and Tšepong would share profits made from the section. But the Tšepong use the section to take in extra patients and that extra savings for them. However, Tšepong expect the government to pay the amount they would make while using the section as private ward,” he said.
“What brought us to where we are today is unforeseeable conduct when signing the agreement. Tšepong alleges that the increase in the salaries of nurses working for government facilities was an emergency and had to be included in the agreement and for the fact that it was not part of the agreement that when other nurses’ salaries are increased even those for Tšepong workers will have to be increased the government is expected to pay the difference in salaries from 2012. The government does not agree with this arguing that the increase in the salaries comes every year and there is no reason for Tšepong to say that it was emergency,” Sekatle said.
According to the Minister, government of Lesotho pays Tšepong M555 million every year. “The amount paid to the hospital every year is half of the budget that is given to the ministry of health in a year. Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) was built with M1.2 billion of which the government invested M400 million which is 33% and Tšepong contributed M800 million from shares and loan from Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), he said.
On the other hand, the Public Relations Officer of QMMH Mothepane Thahane indicated that as an employee she is not even allowed to have the PPP agreement that is said to be containing the fact that the hospital has to have the insurance for any medical malpractice that may occur during work.
Thahane further indicated that the QMMH’s initiative to get nurses back to work before some of them were written the letters of dismissal worked because some of them went back to work.
“As way forward and in trying to fill in the posts of those that have been dismissed, the Hospital will embark on any process each company follows to hire staff like sending out invitations for work applications and all the processes followed,” she said.