Questions still rage at how she was appointed to head the institution
She came, she saw, and left the hospital in a critical condition.
This is how employees at the Bertha Gxowa hospital in Germiston describe the outgoing Dr Nokwethemba Mtshali-Hadebe’s tenure as CEO of the embattled institution. She has been at the helm since 2015 and tendered her resignation in February.
Punted as the youngest CEO in the country, Mtshali-Hadebe was 31 when she assumed her role as acting CEO for the hospital before she was appointed full-time in 2016.
Employees and union members say were caught by surprise when her permanent appointment was announced by former president Jacob Zuma at a Youth Day rally at the Orlando Stadium, Soweto in 2016.
“No one in the hospital had informed us of her permanent appointment. It came as a shock and surprise,” said a source.
One of the allegations levelled against her was that she didn’t have the relevant experience to head the hospital despite her impressive CV. She was whisked from Far East hospital where she was a clinical manager between 2012 and 2015. Her appointment at Bertha Gxowa was made during the tenure of the controversial Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu. The hospital employs over 700 employees.
To qualify for her position Mtshali-Hadebe was supposed to have served at least 10 years in a managerial position. But the post advertisement published in various newspapers in November 2014 recommended a minimum of five years’ experience at middle management level. The position advertised was not for an acting applicant but for a permanent candidate.
Hospital employees say this caused great confusion and suspicions that the terms of her appointment may have been altered to accommodate her.
“How do you act on a position which was advertised permanently? This is strange. It has never happened anywhere where a person who applied for a permanent position is employed at an acting position before being made permanent. This is a clear contradiction. We believe that this position was personally created for her,” claimed the workers.
On assuming her new role, Mtshali-Hadebe told various publications of her ambitions to turn the medium district hospital into a model institution. However, she has since been accused of not fulfilling her promises.
During her three-year tenure at the hospital, allegations of rampant nepotism, job-for-pals scandals and corruption were the order of the day. Sadly, no action was taken against those fingered.
Repeated attempts by Abaphenyi to solicit an interview with Mtshali-Hadebe were spurned. She accused the publication of writing “trash”.
Spokesperson Thabile Mkhatshwa denied the allegations of nepotism and said the recruitment and selection policy of the Gauteng health department does not exclude relatives of staff members from applying for advertised posts.
The CEO was also accused of duplicating the position of clinical head which saw two doctors occupying the same position. This was however denied by Mkhatshwa who said the hospital ‘always had two clinical heads and there was/is a need for that’.
Patients at the hospital say they are fed meals without vegetables. They are fed with pork for the whole week as supper. This was in order to conceal from outsiders what was on the menu.
Mkhatshwa agreed that pork was on their menu along with a variety of meats to accommodate patients who do not eat swine and denied that there was a shortage of funds for food.
Moral among staff is at its lowest ebb at the multi-million state-of-the-art hospital. Employees have claimed that Mtshali-Hadebe favoured and protected certain senior officials over juniors.
“We have tried to engage with her on various matters and she ignored us. Her door was never accessible despite her promises of having an open-door policy. She is leaving the hospital in a ‘critical condition’. We have never witnessed any changes she has brought to the hospital,” said a source.
On Tuesday and as her parting shot, Mtshali-Hadebe issued a memorandum to staff refraining them “from commenting in their individual capacity to the media or any external party on issues relating to internal investigations and all communications should be done through communications director and failure to do so would amount to misconduct”.
Few senior employees were invited to her farewell party held at a top casino in Ekurhuleni on Tuesday. Sources say she was showered with praise and it is not known how much was spent for the shindig.
Gauteng department of health spokesperson Lesemang Matuka said Mtshali-Hadebe met the necessary requirements when she applied for the post.
“She is a qualified and a capable employee who acted in this before being appointed permanently. During her acting period, her performance was outstanding.
“It is also important to note that there are different categories/levels of hospital in the department of health namely: district, regional, tertiary, academic hospitals and specialised (hospital). Each level of hospital has specific requirements as set by the Department of Public Service and Administration,” said Matuka.
As for the bulk of workers they were unequivocal: “We are happy to see her back. We won’t miss her.