Mot­soaledi urges pay­ments of lab debts


HEALTH Min­is­ter Dr Aaron Mot­soaledi wants a law to be en­acted to pro­vide for a mech­a­nism that will en­sure the Na­tional Health Lab­o­ra­tory Ser­vices (NHLS) do not de­pend on pro­vin­cial de­part­ments for fund­ing.

“We be­lieve it is im­por­tant that NHLS is di­rectly funded from the fis­cus as op­posed to prov­inces as there is no law to force them (pro­vin­cial de­part­ments) to pay up,” Mot­soaledi said yes­ter­day.

Mot­soaledi made the com­ments as the NHLS was yes­ter­day hit by the first day of the na­tion­wide strike af­ter it dead­locked with unions over wage ne­go­ti­a­tions.

NHLS’s Shabir Madhi blamed fail­ure to meet the union de­mands to “the big­gest chal­lenge” of non-pay­ment by pro­vin­cial de­part­ments of health for lab­o­ra­tory ser­vices ren­dered.

Madhi said they were owed R5 bil­lion and ac­ced­ing to worker de­mands would “pose a sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial risk to the NHLS”.

Madhi said the big­gest de­fault­ers were Gaut­eng and KwaZulu-Natal, but the lat­ter has been pay­ing for their cur­rent con­sump­tion since the 2016/7 fi­nan­cial year.

“This out­stand­ing debt has neg­a­tively af­fected the cash flow of the NHLS,” he said.

“It is crit­i­cal that the cur­rent ef­forts sup­ported by the na­tional Depart­ment of Health to re­cover money owed to the NHLS be ur­gently ad­dressed to en­sure the fi­nan­cial vi­a­bil­ity of the NHLS and en­able it to con­tinue car­ry­ing out its man­date of pro­vid­ing qual­ity lab­o­ra­tory ser­vices to the pub­lic health sec­tor,” he said.

The unions had ini­tially de­manded a 13% in­crease, which was re­vised to 7.3%; a R2 000 monthly hous­ing al­lowance; and a R500 monthly dan­ger al­lowance for em­ploy­ees po­ten­tially ex­posed to in­fec­tious or­gan­isms, among oth­ers.

NHLS, which ini­tially of­fered a 3% salary, in­creased its of­fer to 7.3% af­ter the na­tional Health Depart­ment me­di­ated in the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Madhi said the re­vised of­fer had not yet been ac­cepted by the unions, which also de­mand in-sourc­ing of cur­rent se­cu­rity, clean­ing and main­te­nance per­son­nel con­tracted to ex­ter­nal ser­vice providers.

“The NHLS Board is un­able to ac­cede to these time­lines, since the tools and the full cost­ing to en­able pro­fi­ciency as­sess­ment pro­mo­tion and in­sourc­ing are yet to be fi­nalised and ap­proved by the NHLS Board.”

Ne­hawu spokesper­son Khaya Xaba said the strike con­tin­ued as the NHLS wanted to im­ple­ment the in-sourced labour bro­kers in Septem­ber 2018.

“We want Septem­ber 2018. That’s where the prob­lem is. Septem­ber 2018 is too far,” he said.

Hospersa gen­eral sec­re­tary Noel Des­fontaines said his union was look­ing for a man­date from mem­bers on whether to ac­cept the NHLS of­fer.

Both Xaba and Des­fontaines said NHLS had yet to ap­proach them for fur­ther ne­go­ti­a­tions.

How­ever, Mot­soaledi lashed out at the unions and pro­vin­cial depart­ment, par­tic­u­larly the lat­ter for not pay­ing NHLS.

“There is no min­is­ter (or) MEC that is not en­cour­aged to pay. We even agreed on non-ne­go­tiables,” he said, re­fer­ring to lab­o­ra­tory ser­vices as non-ne­go­tiable. He said de­part­ments ought to be pay­ing for ser­vices cur­rently ren­dered.

But KwaZuu-Natal Health MEC Si­bongiseni Dhlomo said his depart­ment was up to date with pay­ments for ser­vices ren­dered.

He also said his depart­ment paid R200m last week to­wards the dis­puted debt at the re­quest of the depart­ment.

“Dis­cus­sions are on­go­ing to deal with old debt,” Dhlomo said.

IN­SIS­TENT: Health Min­is­ter Aaron Mot­soaledi

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