Maverick Citizen

LIVINGSTONE HOSPITAL

EC legislature orders provincial health dept to pay for orthopaedic implants to avert ‘humanitarian crisis’

The Eastern Cape legislature on Wednesday afternoon passed a historic, unanimous motion ordering the provincial health department to pay Johnson & Johnson and other suppliers for orthopaedic implants so that surgeons can continue operating at Gqeberha’s Livingstone Hospital.

The Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature stepped in on Wednesday afternoon and ordered the provincial health department to pay the bills of companies supplying orthopaedic implants to Livingstone Hospital in Gqeberha so that surgeons could continue to help patients “with immediate effect”.

The plight of about 70 patients, all suffering from bone fractures and some with sepsis, was first reported in Daily Maverick on Tuesday. 

Doctors warned managers that these patients faced permanent impairment as their “window of opportunity” to be helped was closing and their ability to do a “catch-up” theatre list was very low.

After smaller suppliers stopped providing orthopaedic implants to the hospital, Johnson & Johnson followed suit on Wednesday, saying they were owed R34-million in supplies delivered, and that the paperwork for some of their invoices, dating back to 2019, had not even been done yet.

This led to surgeries for people with bone fractures and sepsis grinding to a halt.

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Following publication of Daily Maverick’s article, a motion without notice was introduced in the legislature by the Democratic Alliance’s spokesperson for health, Jane Cowley. 

By passing the motion, the house noted that the provincial health department’s failure to pay service providers for the orthopaedic implants constituted a “humanitarian crisis”.

The legislature resolved unanimously that the department must transfer enough money to the budget to settle the accruals and pay for orthopaedic implants, and that service providers be approached to resupply critical orthopaedic equipment required for these surgeries.

The house further ordered that the patients be triaged and undergo surgery without further delay. Cowley said all parties voted for the motion.

“The Department of Health has no choice but to immediately act against the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Livingstone Hospital after the Democratic Alliance’s motion on the matter was unanimously adopted in the Eastern Cape provincial legislature…

“The motion called for the department to immediately settle all outstanding accruals to Johnson & Johnson and other service providers for vital equipment required in orthopaedic surgeries.”

Bobby Stevenson, the DA’s chief whip in the legislature, said the motion had made history. 

“The fact that there was multi-party support for the DA’s motion was history-making. It had to be unanimously adopted as it was a motion without notice. This is now a house decision and the department must now take action. 

“This also highlights the importance of the role of the provincial legislature to change the lives of people,” he said.

The health department said in written answers to questions on Monday that trauma cases in the area serviced by Livingstone Hospital had outstripped the number that was budgeted for. 

It added that there were some “challenges” in paying Johnson & Johnson’s bill, but that it was being attended to “with the urgency it deserves” and that “approval for additional funding is being sourced to offset current outstanding debt”.

In addition, the health department is facing contingent medico-legal claims that run to R38-billion and have been ordered to make record-breaking payouts in the past two years. 

Claims arising from orthopaedic surgeries are among the areas that were identified as high risk. DM/MC

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