GEORGE NEWS - With only four doctors contracted to assess the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) grant recipients in the Garden Route, hundreds of people in George will not be able to access their social grants for April; probably not before June or July.
In an announcement earlier last week Sassa confirmed that the payment of grants to elderly and disabled persons would be brought forward. "This is to lower the risk of Covid-19 by reducing congestion at Sassa-affiliated retailers and banks."
Shivani Wahab, the senior communications manager at Sassa, said in February that, due to a limited number of contracted doctors, there is currently a huge demand for medical assessment services George office.
"This has unfortunately culminated in a long waiting period. We are addressing the backlog."George Herald wrote about the issue in February when we were contacted by a beneficiary complaining that he will have to wait for four-and-a-half months to see a doctor.
Martin Maas said he is fortunate enough that he can depend on family to support him during this time. "What about the people who do not have family to support them? What will happen to them?"
When he went to the Sassa office in Courtenay Street on 3 February, he was told there is a waiting list of four-and-a-half months at Conville Clinic because of the insufficient number of Sassa-contracted doctors. "I was told I will only get my grant in June if I am deemed disabled by the state doctor," he said.
DA call to action
In a statement on 27 March the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Western Cape said it had reliably learnt that hundreds of people in George are unable to access social grants due to this situation.
It has further learnt, read the statement, that until June 2019, Sassa had an agreement with the Department of Health (DOH) which saw them make use of the DOH doctors as assessment doctors.
"However, when this agreement was terminated at the end of June 2019, Sassa took the decision to tender directly for the appointment of assessment doctors. The tender process resulted in the appointment of a meagre four Sassa-contracted assessment doctors, all of whom are expected to service the areas of George, Mossel Bay, Knysna, Riversdale and Plettenberg Bay."
In an effort to remedy this anomaly, Sassa has requested permission from National Treasury to appoint additional assessment doctors without having to go to tender. The DA has now called upon Sassa to urgently follow up on the submissions it made to National Treasury in this respect.
"We are also calling on Sassa, as in interim measure, to make use of the Department of Health assessments doctors. This will lessen the existing waiting period," said the DA.
Updated information will follow as it becomes available.
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