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Health Dept accused of failing to prepare hospitals during initial lockdown

Responding to the department’s adjustment budget, MPs in the opposition benches said government did not do enough to brace for the coronavirus storm.

FILE: Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize during a walkabout at the Dora Ngiza Hospital in Port Elizabeth on 23 July 2020. Picture: @DrZweliMkhize/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - Opposition parties on Thursday slammed the Department of Health, accusing it of failing to prepare hospitals during the initial coronavirus lockdown period earlier this year.

Responding to the department’s adjustment budget, MPs in the opposition benches said that government did not do enough to brace for the storm.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize tabled his department’s R58.4 billion adjustment budget in the National Assembly on Thursday.

Mkhize said that the COVID-19 pandemic had placed an unprecedented demand on healthcare. He told MPs that the budget had to take into account the outbreak and he wanted additional ICU and high-care space.

But DA MP Siviwe Gwarube said that the minister should reflect on government’s shortcomings over the past four months of the lockdown.

“Government must acknowledge that it did not build the requisite critical care bed capacity that will be needed or capacitate facilities with oxygen. Government never filled critical posts or capacitated the National Health Laboratory Service for mass testing right at the beginning,” Gwarube said.

EFF MP Naledi Chirwa said that it was clear that the department had failed to prepare adequately.

“Despite the lack of leadership imminent in this department, our issue is that you are corrupt [and] you are blatant liars. People spent months on end resting on the assertion made by Minister Zweli Mkhize that the public health system is ready when this was far from the truth,” Chirwa said.

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