Dhlomo blasts DA leader over oxygen cylinders

2013-08-07 00:00

HEALTH MEC Siboniseni Dhlomo launched a scathing attack on KZN DA leader Sizwe Mchunu yesterday for what he claimed were Mchunu’s wild allegations about the shortage of oxygen in the province’s ambulances.

Dhlomo said it was regrettable when people who did not have a technical understanding of how health services are run made irresponsible statements in the media.

Dhlomo said this after Mchunu issued a statement last week alleging that a DA investigation found that there had been no deliveries of oxygen cylinders to emergency bases for the past two weeks.

Mchunu insisted yesterday that it was now the fourth week that the department had failed to ensure the delivery of oxygen cylinders to emergency medical care and rescue services depots.

“The DA is deeply disturbed by this dilemma, which has been denied by Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo, but has been confirmed by members of the public and staffers through media channels,” he said.

Mchunu appealed to Dhlomo to get private ambulance services involved as a temporary measure before explaining exactly how this crisis is being dealt with.

“Should Dhlomo fail to heed this call, he must be personally held responsible for lives lost as a result of this crisis,” he said.

This, it was claimed, after the Health Department opted not to renew the supply contract and failed to appoint a new service provider.

Mchunu had said that EMRS staff had told the DA that many bases in KZN were operating on reserves, while some had run out of stock.

But this was dismissed by the head of department, Sibongile Zungu, yesterday.

Zungu said the supplier of oxygen changed from Afrox to Air Liquide. The procurement of oxygen is done by National Treasury on behalf of national and provincial departments.

“During the course of the change there were logistical issues regarding the cylinders that are used by different suppliers. As to the shortage of oxygen, that has not been a case in our facilities,” Zungu said.

She insisted that there had been no shortage of cylinders of oxygen but said some cylinders that were supplied did not fit into the brackets that hold them.

She said the supplier had promised to supply cylinders that fit properly next month.

Dhlomo said oxygen cylinders were available at all health facilities. “Why should we create a crisis in the ambulance service?”, he asked.

He said it was dishonourable of Mchunu to make the claims in the media after he had written to him asking for information.

The Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) yesterday confirmed that the department had stepped in this week to provide an adequate supply of oxygen to Emergency and Medical Rescue bases across the province.

Hospersa spokesperson Michelle Connolly said last night that the bases had finally received deliveries of oxygen on Monday and yesterday.

“The province has stepped in and at the moment they do have adequate supplies of oxygen.

“ It seemed that we have achieved our objective by going to the media,” she said.

Afrox spokesperson Simon Miller confirmed last week that the company had been called upon to supply oxygen to the province, but had not responded to further questions last night.

A spokesperson for Air Liquide, Elana Pienaar, confirmed the company had a contract with the KZN Health Department.

“We comply with our obligations,” Pienaar said.

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