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The rebuilding of the South Africa's five major public hospitals will improve the delivery of healthcare, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said recently.
The Government is embarking on a massive infrastructure programme to rebuild King Edward VIII, George Mukhari, Walter Sisulu, Chris Hani Baragwanath and Limpopo Academic hospitals.
Speaking in Durban, Motsoaledi said the government had identified infrastructure development as one of the key pillars for health transformation. This would also help when the National Health Insurance (NHI) was implemented.
"This was because of an honest introspection that informed us that we have not done much in the past sixteen years," he said.
The hospitals were chosen as flagship projects in fast-tracking infrastructure development in public health. They were also identified because they are providing referral services to mainly rural communities.
Motsoaledi said one of the problems that had led to deterioration in some of the state hospitals, and King Edward VIII Hospital in particular, was that the department used doctors to manage infrastructure projects.
"This situation is like when we want to revamp our transport system towards airplanes and then take taxi drivers to be pilots," he said.
The National Health Council had now decided that all infrastructure units must be manned by engineers, with the national department already having appointed an engineer to lead the projects.
Motsoaledi said that government wants to use the experience gained in the building of FIFA stadiums in the implementation of these projects.
Engineers will provide strategic management of these massive projects, including developing norms and standards for clinics and big hospitals.
Motsoaledi warned that provinces which underspend would have their infrastructure budget taken away. This was in view of a report by Dr Moussad Shaker, who presented a spending trend which shows that provinces have been underspending on their infrastructure budgets in the past five years.
"To revitalize public hospitals would take us up to ten years at the least. In the current financial year; R7.6 bn has been budgeted for revitalization and we project an underspending of around R1.3 bn if things are allowed to continue as they stand" said Shaker.
Several task teams have been put in place to start working on the project.