The Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) is determined to turn around its public health institutions and stabilise its finances by refocusing expenditure to deliver on its new priorities.

During the 2014/15 R31.5 billion budget speech on July 29th, MEC Qedani Mahlangu announced that the GDoH will upgrade its ICT infrastructure at all its institutions, as well as improve infrastructure, primary health care (PHC), quality public health care and healthy lifestyles.

Plans were also revealed to use social media to engage directly with citizens through cell phones, which follow Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister, Siyabonga Cwele’s, eGovernance strategy.

MEC Mahlangu announced that the GDoH has partnered with Lean Institute Africa to start a programme that addresses waiting times at their healthcare facilities. The initiative is already underway across the province’s 36 hospitals, with plans to roll out to PHC facilities. “To further reduce patient waiting times and the loss of files, we have launched a project at South Rand Hospital to put 2,000 patient files onto a real time integrated electronic system,” said MEC Mahlangu.

MEC Mahlangu revealed that R1.7 billion has been allocated for infrastructure – of which R629.26 million has been allocated for capital projects and R1.1 billion for maintenance works. Key infrastructure projects include the opening of the new Natalspruit Regional Hospital with 821 beds later this year.

Due to the growing population around Tembisa and the Johannesburg Inner City, MEC Mahlangu also said the department will review the decision to close Kempton Park and Hillbrow Hospitals.

Regarding PHC, MEC Mahlangu said an “activist and community-oriented approach” is required, which will hinge on ward-based outreach teams, district clinical specialist teams and integrated school health services.

“Ward-based outreach teams comprise of community health workers that provide basic health information education and make the necessary referrals to clinics where required,” said MEC Mahlangu. “These teams are currently active in 133 wards and will be expanded to cover all 508 wards. Clinical specialist teams have also been set up to improve PHC services at clinics,” added MEC Mahlangu.

The GDoH also wants to reduce the rate of new HIV infections by 50% by focusing on social, behavioural and structural factors.

There are also plans increase to 18 the number of GeneXpert machines available to diagnose TB within 24 hours. An additional five facilities that treat Multiple Drug Resistant TB will be added to the existing 12 hospitals and 27 clinics that currently render the service.  An amount of R225 million has been allocated to this programme.

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