R110mil advance for the Free State Health

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bloemfontein - The Free State Department of Health on Wednesday received an advance on its 2009/10 budget to the value of R110 million from the provincial Treasury.

This will enable the department to address the challenges in the province's facilities.

The department had placed a moratorium on the provision of Anti Retroviral Viral (ARV) treatment to new patients in the province, except for pregnant women, due to budgetary constraints and unforeseen escalations in costs.

Seven of the 28 ARV centres in the Free State were able to continue initiating treatment after a shipment of the drug to the value of R8.719 million arrived in the province on 11 February. USAID was able to contribute R11.2 million.

The Free State Department of Health last year also had an unforeseen increase in expenditure. It had put forward a budget for the financial availability to provide ARVs to 27 000 people, but received the budget for only 19 000 people.

The department, which is currently providing ARV's to 44 000 people, had to find the necessary budget for the provision of drugs themselves.

It is difficult to budget for HIV sites as one can not estimate how many new infections there will be in the next financial year. Increased in food and fuel prices also lead to costs rising.

The provincial health department had also taken over the financing of municipal health facilities without any financial assistance from national government.

Last year there were also staff increases which meant more salaries had to be paid, significantly impacting on the provinces budget.

National Health Minister Barbara Hogan visited an ARV site in Bloemfontein earlier this month, saying it had been a regrettable situation.

"Seldom has any people working in the health sector ever been faced with such a difficult decision to say they could not allow new patients onto ARVs. The level of stress that we witness here is indicative of just how serious the situation is," the minister said at the time.