Budget speech woes

After the 2019 budget speech there is very little to celebrate, but with the upcoming elections South Africans have the opportunity to effect change.

The new year has brought about many early challenges and opportunities for us all. There are some things we can change and others that need political will to be changed. We had the opportunity to listen to the 2019 budget speech by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni recently. We were shocked, disappointed, surprised and concerned about how the money has been allocated.

We all have our own sections of the speech we pay particular attention to, like the allocation of social grants. If you’re a recipient of a grant and didn’t know, here is the news: The disability grant will be increased from R1 695 to R1 780; the foster care grant from R960 to R1 000; the care dependency grant from R1 695 to R1 780; and the child support grant from R405 to R425.

This is neither sustainable nor fair, but that’s a discussion for a future edition. Instead, I want to interrogate the topic that stood out most for me – healthcare.

It is very important to have good health and the means to maintain your wellbeing. This costs money. Yet money is difficult to come by if you don’t earn enough, and very expensive if you must borrow it. It is the oil that lubricates the wheel of life and we all need it to survive.

Health services are vital to any community and there is a need for more funding to service the sector. We also need more doctors, nurses and other support personnel to be employed by the health department. This was mentioned in my article for Issue 6 of ROLLING INSPIRATION for 2018, and the minister complied!

In this new budget, R2,8 billion has been reprioritised to a new human resource grant, R1 billion for medical interns, and R1 billion has been added to raise the wages of community healthcare workers to R3 500 per month. This is all good and well for the health sector, but there are other unnecessary influences that deplete these funds.

At a recent press conference, the Western Cape Provincial Minister of Health, Professor Nomafrench Mbombo, revealed how violence is putting a strain on the health budget. She mentioned that, in the period from December 2018 to January 2019, more than one in five ambulance cases of about 30 000 were as a result of either a stab wound, gunshot wound, an accident or other physical injury.

Prof Mbombo stated that it costs between R22 000 and R25 000 to treat a person with a gunshot wound. Our hospitals are under severe pressure and these trauma cases take priority over less urgent injuries and illnesses. These are frightening statistics when considering that a large portion of society relies on the emergency medical services provided by the government.

It not only affects the waiting time for treatment, but is very expensive too. It eats into funds that could have been spent on other needs. Most of the violence is caused by social ills like gangsterism or fuelled by alcohol and substance abuse. This is all avoidable and very unnecessary. There is an urgent need for intervention to prevent it from spiralling further out of control. Other factors such as power cuts and commissions addressing corruption are adding pressure on all of us.

It is not healthy for a society to be placed under such pressure. There should be a bright side to budget expenditure. Although Mboweni tried to achieve some positivity, it is up to us as a country to try and move on from all of the negativity; to try and find ways of moving everyone forward one project or community at a time.

Luckily, as citizens, we do have a chance to effect change this year by participating in the elections that will be held on May 8, 2019. Let your voice be heard, because your vote is your voice.

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