Johannesburg - New generators that didn’t work at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital recently were not switched on and hospital staff didn’t have keys for the plant room.
That’s what Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development officials found when MEC Qedani Mahlangu sent a team to investigate the incident.
At the time, the Health Department said some generators had worked and denied reports from the SA Registrars’ Association that an operation had to continue by the light of a torch and cellphones.
On Sunday, Mahlangu said she and her department took full responsibility for what happened at Bara, as running the generators wasn’t the responsibility of hospital officials, and she apologised.
“Neither the CEO nor anybody else who is employed in the hospital has access to that plant room. When my team, my office personnel, went to Bara, and entered the plant room, the generators were on ‘rest’, not on automatic kick-in…
“Between the officials and the department and the contractor, someone must explain.”
Mahlangu, a former health MEC herself, said that when she was at Health, “my biggest headache was at DID [Department of Infrastructure Development]”.
She has been at the helm for just two months, and on Sunday revealed her plan to clean up and get delivery on track.
This includes hiring more skilled staff, sorting out lifts and generators, holding errant contractors to account, running projects on time and on budget, and developing a department that can do its own work.
“Our performance paradigm shift is not evolutionary but radical, and will not entertain excuses and inefficiencies,” said Mahlangu.
Only 20 percent of the department’s staff are technical people, but she is changing this. She has started employing hundreds of skilled professionals and artisans, and has an extra R52m to pay them. About 200 are due to start work this week.
The adverts ran last month and there were 988 applications; Mahlangu said 242 were recommended for appointment as professionals, and the selection of 329 artisans was under way.
The Infrastructure Development foremen who work at sites such as hospitals were being withdrawn and new, skilled teams were being sent to be permanently on site at the big four academic hospitals: Bara, Charlotte Maxeke in Joburg, Steve Biko in Pretoria and George Mukhari in Ga-Rankuwa.
“We are going to dispatch a group of the following technically skilled people: a quantity surveyor, electrical and mechanical engineers, to be supported by artisans.”
They would work with hospital managements daily to resolve building and maintenance issues.
“We are going to ensure that the department becomes a premier construction company.”
Mahlangu wants a single basic plan for a school, a clinic and a hospital, so that these are not continually redesigned and the costs are clearer. Top priorities are to sort out the disastrous lifts and generators.
Tenders for 111 lifts have already been awarded, and on Monday more decisions were expected on lifts. Bara can expect 14 lifts by the end of this month, Charlotte Maxeke 14 and Carletonville Hospital four.
Mahlangu said too many contractors simply could not deliver and that those who delivered must be paid within the 30-day deadline.
The department had spent about R90m on interest on late payments and related costs.