Department of Health director-general Precious Matsoso told Parliament on Wednesday that she had appointed a new commissioner to overhaul the Compensation Commission for Occupational Disease (CCOD), which has for years laboured with a massive backlog in claims and struggled to fill vacant posts.
The commission pays compensation to people who contract lung diseases such as tuberculosis and emphysema from working on mines. All other work-related claims of injury and disease are dealt with by the Department of Labour.
"It’s quite clear there has been mismanagement (of the CCOD)," Ms Matsoso told members of parliament’s portfolio committee on health.
Former CCOD commissioner Pumla Mzizi has been replaced by the executive director for the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Barry Kistnasamy, who retains his role at the institute.
Ms Mzizi was hauled over the coals by MPs in May after it became apparent she had made scant progress in tackling the problems facing the CCOD in the year since her previous presentation to them. She compounded MPs’ irritation by presenting documents that were virtually identical to those tabled the year before.
Ms Matsoso told Business Day on the sidelines of Wednesday morning’s committee meeting that she had reviewed Ms Mzizi’s performance, and she had subsequently resigned.
Dr Kistnasamy told MPs the entire occupational health system in South Africa needed reform to ensure workers were adequately protected.
"There is no surveillance of injuries and diseases. If we don’t measure (them), we can’t manage them, nor target industries causing harm," he said.
Dr Kistnasamy will be responsible for improving co-ordination between the NIOH, the Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases and the CCOD.
All three organisations fall under the watch of the Department of Health, which is drafting legislation to integrate the institutions into a single entity and unbundle the NIOH from the National Health Laboratory Service, according to Ms Matsoso.
Work had already started on improving the operations of the CCOD, she said.
The culture of the institutions had been "almost like an ATM", where junior administrators waited passively for miners with lung diseases to travel to their Johannesburg offices to lay claims, she said.
In May Ms Mzizi said it typically took between three and five years to settle a miner’s claim. The backlog in claims last June stood at more than 13,000, she said at the time.