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Tšepong staff left in the lurch

MATHATISI SEBUSI

MASERU – The fate of staff at the Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) remains unclear following the termination of the partnership between the government of Lesotho and Tšepong. The termination of the PPP agreement between the Government of Lesotho and Tšepong will be effective on August 31, 2021 and as we speak Netcare has started the process of handing over operations at QMMH and its four filter clinics in Maseru to the government of Lesotho.

The Tšepong consortium is the principal contractor in the PPP agreement and Netcare has been sub-contracted to manage Tšepong, providing all clinical services required to operate the hospital and primary care clinical services on behalf of the consortium.

Speaking to this publication on the future of Tšepong’s employees, Minister of Health Semamo Sekatle said the Government will not inherit Tšepong’ employees. Instead, he said, Tšepong has an obligation to pay its workers until August 31 when it is expected to make formally and legally sever ties with its staff. Sekatle said the government is not obliged to secure jobs for Tšepong staff but as a responsible government, they will provide jobs to the staff but only if such opportunities are available.

“The government is still yet to decide on a way forward regarding Tšepong staff. We are a responsible government and ensuring job opportunities for Basotho is our priority. We will do what is right and doable, but we do not promise to absorb the staff,” Sekatle said.

He, however, emphasised that Tšepong staff are Tšepong’s responsibility and not that of the government of Lesotho. Sekatle further noted that the PPP contract with Tšepong was not benefiting the government of Lesotho and, hopefully, with the termination of the contract the government will be able to recover whatever it lost through the partnership.

The termination of the partnership has also been confirmed by Netcare which also announced its commencement to hand over the hospital and primary care clinics to the government. However, in a statement, Netcare noted that the decision to terminate the partnership and commence the handover of the facilities and operations follows repeated failure by the government to settle arrears payments for services rendered by Tšepong.

Netcare noted that despite the government being four months in arrears, it has been persistent in demanding that Netcare continues providing its services until August 31, 2021. “In its capacity as a shareholder of Tšepong, and as the major provider of services to Tšepong, Netcare has continued to act in good faith and provided ample written notice to Tšepong and GoL, as well as follow-up reminds that GoL is substantially in default of its payment obligations under the PPP agreement.

“The government has repeatedly reiterated that it has no intention of making these scheduled, contractual payments at this stage, and will only consider making payment after the PPP termination date of August 31, 2021.

“In light of these circumstances, Netcare is no longer prepared to fund ongoing operations on behalf of PPP. Netcare has provided financial support on numerous occasions over recent years to enable continued operations at the hospital and primary care clinics when government of Lesotho failed to make timely payment of services. The refusal by the GoL to pay the outstanding fees clearly places an unreasonable expectation on suppliers to continue providing full services at a substantial level of commercial risk to their business,” writes Netcare.

Netcare, however, noted that despite not being paid, it will continue to treat all patients during the transitional period until it is deemed clinically appropriate and safe to discharge them. It further noted that the hospital will accept all urgent cases and emergencies, including obstetric emergencies, and outpatient services will remain available for any unstable patients, while all patients will be referred to government clinics and facilities.

The consortium of Tšepong shareholders compromises Netcare, which holds a 40 percent stake, while the remaining 60 percent shareholding is held by South Africa-based Afinnai Health (Pty) Ltd (20 percent), Lesotho Based Exel Health Services (Pty) Ltd (20 percent), D10 investments (Pty) Ltd (10 percent), also Lesotho based, and Women Investment Company Pty Ltd (10 percent) which is also Lesotho based.

 

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