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Tšepong hits back at critics

 

Pascalinah Kabi

QUEEN ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) management say the public-private partnership (PPP) with the government is costing more than initially envisaged because the hospital is serving more patients than the agreed number.

Tšepong, as the hospital is widely known, has also dispelled allegations of fleecing the government, saying there is an agreed expenditure formula in the partnership which is directly linked to the number of patients.

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.

Health Minister Nyapane 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.

Earlier this year, a human rights organisation, Countdown Dialogue Platform (CODIP), called for an investigation into the hospital’s operations saying it had become a law unto itself.

CODIP also called for a stakeholders’ forum to find an alternative to the PPP agreement which it said favoured the consortium.

“Government must be seen to be taking the necessary steps to reduce wastage of national resources. This PPP agreement is nothing but a floodgate within which public resources are looted to enrich shareholders of Netcare and others,” CODIP stated.

In response to the allegations, QMMH acting Public Relations Officer, ‘Manthako Rasupu, said it was not true that the agreement favoured the Tšepong consortium at the expense of the government of Lesotho.

“It does not favour any of the two parties. The government was clear on its affordability limit and it designed the project by fixing the annual payment to Tšepong over the contract period,” she said.

“Payments are governed by an agreed formula aimed at ensuring that the government’ expenditure on this project would be predictable and affordable.

“The formula is linked to a fixed number of patients, which unfortunately have been exceeded over several years. This is one of the reasons that the predicted value was exceeded.”

On allegations that the hospital’s management did as they pleased, Ms Rasupu said the agreement had monitoring mechanisms which — if not adhered to — would result in the government imposing penalties on Tšepong.

She said either of the two parties were free to terminate the contract at any point, adding that they would cooperate with any formal investigations into the hospital.

Asked if it was true that the hospital increased the salaries of pharmacists and pharma-technicians by between M2 000 and M5 000, while excluding other staffers like nurses, Ms Rasupu said: “We confirm that there was an increase for pharmacy technicians to address the risk of attrition of a scarce skill and a subsequent increase to all staff who met a specific criteria. The details of the criteria are an internal matter.”

She also refuted the allegation that the hospital was flouting Lesotho’s labour laws, adding that they were committed to fulfil their mandate. “We are committed to providing the nation with the quality health care services it deserves. We are committed as a team (staff and management) to achieve this,” Ms Rasupu added.

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