Gauteng dept to resolve outstanding matters with Nestlé

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Johannesburg - The Gauteng Department of Health and Social Development is expected to resolve all outstanding matters with Nestlé by the end of business on Thursday.

Nestlé last week suspended delivery of infant formula to hospitals in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo which had monies outstanding, however Limpopo has since paid their debt.

Gauteng MEC for Health and Social Development Qedani Mahlangu has apologised to members of the community for the inconvenience and has assured them that services would continue shortly.

"We unreservedly apologise to members of our community who due to weaknesses in our system were inconvenienced as a result of us not providing services they should have received.

"Commitments were made to me that all outstanding matters will be resolved by the end of business on Thursday after meetings with Nestle," she said.

National Health spokesperson Fidel Hadebe told BuaNews on Thursday that Nestle had informed the department it would continue to deliver the formula in hospitals as part of it obligation, despite outstanding payments due to them.

"We are in the process of encouraging the provinces to settle their debts to Nestlé, Limpopo is now sorted out and we will check the other two provinces on how far they are with the payments," Mr Hadebe said.

On Wednesday, Nestlé Southern Africa Region spokesperson Theo Mxakwe said he appreciated the efforts made by the national health department to ensure that provincial health departments fulfil their obligations and settle outstanding debts.

"The department immediately recognised the difficulty we faced in continuing supplies, and has acted speedily to do what it can to ensure the matter is resolved," he said.

MEC Mahlangu further challenged officials and suppliers to turn up their efforts and end weaknesses recently experienced by the provincial health sector.

The provincial health sector has recently experienced challenges including the implementation of the drug supply management system to health facilities.

Following updates on the implementation of the drug supply management system, Ms Mahlangu paid a surprise visit after hours to the Medical Depot to get a sense of efforts in place in an attempt to find a speedy response to the problem.

She was pleased with the outcome and encouraged by the staff's willingness to work overtime.

"The signs I saw today has certainly been good. I have been particularly encouraged by our staff's willingness to work overtime to get a speedy solution and I want to thank them very much," the MEC said.

She further issued an ultimatum to the service provider that they must ensure there were no more technical glitches in the implementation of the drug supply management system by the end of next Friday.

"Failure to comply would result in a review of their contract with government and this should be the message to any service provider contracted to government, delivery of service must be efficiently and effectively done as it ultimately has a direct impact on our people," Ms Mahlangu warned.

Ms Mahlangu is currently engaged in briefings with various stakeholders to gain deeper insight of issues faced by the provincial health sector while outlining some of her areas of priority.

In due course, she is expected to pronounce her vision for health in Gauteng including interventions to address some of the key challenges faced at Chris Baragwanath and Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospitals.