On 14 July 2021, Netcare issued a media statement advising that it had started a process of handing over operations at the Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) and its four primary care (filter) clinics in Maseru to the GoL. On 23 July 2021, an additional media statement was issued providing an update on the handover process.
This transition follows the GoL’s premature termination of the public private partnership (PPP) agreement, with effect from 31 August 2021 on disputed grounds. The handover of the QMMH and the filter clinics has been accelerated and services have been downscaled, as the GoL has failed to pay the contracted unitary fees for the past five months.
On 9 July 2021, following a meeting with the GoL on 7 July 2021, Netcare and the Tšepong consortium (which is the principal contractor in the PPP agreement) presented the GoL with a handover guide (handover agreement) based on the PPP agreement. This handover guidelines detailed the process to be followed to ensure an orderly transition and, more importantly, continuity of services so that patient safety and care is not compromised in any way. There has been no response from the GoL concerning the handover agreement, despite a commitment made at the meeting of 7 July to respond by 12 July 2021.
Netcare was informed yesterday afternoon, 29 July 2021, by the representatives of the GoL, including the Principal Secretary for Health, that it is introducing a team of four people to take over the management of health services at the hospital, with effect from Monday, 2 August 2021.
This brings forward the handover of the QMMH to only a few days from today, which is a total disregard and breach of the provisions of the PPP agreement. It ignores crucial transitionary arrangements and agreements that are essential for a seamless handover to secure the safe continuation of healthcare services to the Basotho citizens. 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 GoL, as contemplated in the PPP agreement. This improper handover further ignores the basic employment rights of Tšepong workers, who have loyally provided care for the past eleven years.
Without the application of appropriate care and due process in this handover phase, Netcare is of the view that the GoL is acting without due and careful consideration of the possible consequences. Netcare has once more appealed to the GoL to rethink this hasty decision given its adverse implications, and to reconsider Netcare’s request for an orderly and legally compliant transition, as none of the following key actions required to ensure a seamless handover and continuation of quality health services would have been completed by 2 August 2021:
- The issuing of offer of employment letters to fully trained staff members who are essential to maintain capacity in the health system;
- Engagement with key supply chain members required to ensure continuity of essential support services and technical maintenance of the estate;
- Handover of medical equipment including service agreements 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; and
- Engagement with information and management system providers to ensure appropriate transfer of system licenses to maintain electronic record keeping.
Netcare CEO, Dr Richard Friedland, commented, “We are all concerned by the GoL’s recent actions, and 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 patient 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.”
The commercial risks associated with this decision by the GoL and the unilateral disregard for the terms and conditions of the PPP agreement, originally instituted by the GoL, are also unacceptable to sub-contractors and supply chain members.
Notwithstanding that the merits for termination and repudiation of the PPP agreement by the GoL are disputed, Netcare has repeatedly stated that it will support an orderly handover process by 31 August 2021.
Dr Friedland added, “We wish to warn against the hasty manner in which the GoL 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 GoL.”
Issued by: MNA on behalf of Netcare
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