Govt working on ‘lasting solution’ for Tšepong

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. . . amid calls for probe into hospital’s operations

Pascalinah Kabi

THE government says a “lasting solution” is in the offing to resolve the ongoing service delivery crisis at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH).

Health Minister, Nyapane Kaya, yesterday told the Lesotho Times that cabinet had come up with a resolution to address problems such as the long running go-slow by nurses that has crippled operations at the referral facility widely known as Tšepong.

However, Mr Kaya would not be drawn to elaborate on the measures the government would take, saying they would be announced in “due course”.

“Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is taking the matter seriously, given that it affects the whole country, but I cannot divulge the resolution that was made,” he said.

The institution was opened in October 2011 to replace Queen Elizabeth II Hospital as the country’s major referral healthcare facility.

South African healthcare group, Netcare, formed a consortium with local companies, and in October 2008 an 18-year PPP agreement was signed between the government of Lesotho and the new company, Tšepong.

However, the hospital has been under fire for allegedly fleecing the government and flouting the tenets of the agreement. Its operations have also been hamstrung by a long-drawn go-slow by nurses who are miffed for being overlooked in salary increments given to pharmacists and other staff.

Mr Kaya stated earlier this year that the government wanted out of what he described as a lopsided contract. The minister said the hospital could not justify being allocated M549 444 million from the M2.5 billion meant for the health sector while failing to treat cancer patients or providing dialysis services.

The hospital refers cancer patients to Free State hospitals in South Africa at the government’s expense.

For their part, Tšepong management have said the PPP with the government was costing more than initially envisaged because the hospital is serving more patients than the agreed number.

They have also denied allegations of fleecing the government, saying there is an agreed expenditure formula in the partnership which is directly linked to the number of patients.

Last Sunday, members of the public submitted a petition to Mr Kaya demanding a cancellation of the PPP agreement which they said favoured the consortium.

They also called for an investigation into the hospital’s operations saying many people had died due to negligence.

“For example, some patients with wounds from different types of injuries are discharged without being assessed for internal bleeding which can be fatal,” said Bokang Tšoanamatsie, who read the petition.

“Some patients are discharged by the hospital after being told they are fully healthy, only to discover that they have a serious ailment that has spread to other parts of the body after seeking a second opinion.”

The petitioners also claimed some of the hospital’s staff were underqualified while others were “negligent”.

“We strongly hold the opinion that the root cause of this poor service is doctors and nurses who lack the expertise to administer healthcare services to patients or negligence on the part of the doctors.”

The petitioners added: “We therefore request His Majesty’s government to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the deaths that have occurred at the hospital within the past two years or beyond. This is because we have serious suspicions that some deaths were a result of poor service delivery by the hospital.”

In the event that the proposed commission of inquiry discovers impropriety on the part of Tšepong, the petitioners demanded the termination of the contract. The petitioners wanted a response from the minister in 14 days.

Addressing the petitioners, Mr Kaya said he had been ordered by his principals in government to “deal decisively with the Tšepong issue”.

“As government, we have tried many times to deal with these issues and I recently had a meeting with my deputy (‘Manthabiseng Phohleli), the Prime Minister (Thomas Thabane), Deputy Prime Minister (Monyane Moleleki) discussing this matter,” he said.

“I was given an order whose details I cannot divulge to deal with the Tšepong issue and the petition will add impetus to this issue.”

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