MASERU – Netcare Group, a major shareholder in the Public Private Partnership (PPP) between the government and the Tšepong Consortium, has accused the former of breaching the provisions of the agreement. The group says crucial transitional arrangements that are essential for a seamless handover of the Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) were not followed.
The transition follows the government’s premature termination of the PPP agreement on disputed grounds. On Monday, the government announced that the hospital is now under its control, effective from Sunday. Dr Chale Moji has been appointed the new Managing Director of the hospital while Dr Lipontšo Makakole heads the facility’s clinical services. Colonel ’Mammohi Mofelehetsi has been appointed the Deputy Director Administration and Support Services, with Sister Catherine Lebina holding the new position of Head of Nursing Services for the Maseru district.
The decision, which has been lamented by Netcare, brought forward the untimely handover of the hospital, which was initially scheduled for August 31 which Netcare says is a total disregard and breach of the provisions of the agreement. The handover has been accelerated and services have been downscaled, as the government has failed to pay the contracted unitary fees for the past five months.
“It ignores crucial transitional arrangements and agreements that are essential for a seamless handover to secure the safe continuation of healthcare services to the Basotho citizens,” Netcare says in a media statement this week. These include clarity on the transfer of over 800 Tšepong employees comprising clinicians, nurses, other staff and sub-contractor employees who are expecting formal offer letters of employment from the government as contemplated in the PPP agreement.
This improper handover, Netcare says, further ignores the basic employment rights of Tšepong workers who have loyally provided health care services for the past 11 years. Without the application of appropriate care and due process in this handover, Netcare is of the view that the government is acting without due and careful consideration of the possible consequences.
Netcare has therefore urged the government to rethink this hasty decision given its adverse implications and to reconsider its request for an orderly and legally compliant transition. Key actions that include the issuing of offer of employment letters to fully trained staff members who are essential to maintaining capacity in the health system, as well as engagement with key supply chain members required to ensure continuity of essential support services and technical maintenance of the estate have all not been considered, according to Netcare.
These further include the handover of medical equipment such as service agreement to mitigate preventable downtime of life saving equipment, handover of medical drugs, consumables and durables, some of which have long replenishment lead times or are in short supply.
Engagement with information and management system providers to ensure appropriate transfer of system licenses to maintain electronic record keeping was also not considered, the group further shows. “We are all concerned by the government’s recent actions, especially this recent decision. We have now written to the Prime Minister of Lesotho, the Right Honourable Dr Moeketsi Majoro as well as our government and the South African High Commissioner in Lesotho to express our concern.
We have given repeated assurances that we will in no way endanger patients’ safety and care through this transition process, but are now faced with this irresponsible decision that creates significant risk to the lives of patients under our care and the livelihoods of employees,” Netcare Chief Executive Officer, Dr Richard Friedland, said.
The commercial risks associated with this decision by the government and the unilateral disregard for the terms and conditions of the PPP agreement, originally instituted by government, are also unacceptable to sub-contractors and supply chain members, according to Netcare.
Notwithstanding that the merits for termination and repudiation of the PPP agreement are disputed, Netcare has repeatedly stated that it will support an orderly handover process by August 31. “We wish to warn against the hasty manner in which the government is seeking to expedite the handover process. This has the potential to create an unsafe operational environment which may compromise the safety and care of patients. As Netcare, we will also not abandon or turn a blind eye to the infringement of employees’ rights by the government,” the CEO added.
The consortium of Tšepong shareholders comprises Netcare, which holds a 40 percent interest, while the remaining 60 percent shareholding is held by Afrinnai Health (Pty) Ltd with 20 percent, Excel Health Services (Pty) Ltd with 20 percent as well as D10 Investments (Pty) Ltd with 10 percent and the Women Investment Company with 10 percent.
The respective entities represent consortiums of their own shareholders and are clustered to represent shareholders with common interest. (Visit our website and facebook page for a video showing staff at the hospital manually writing particulars of patients after the electronic records system stopped functioning).