Denosa condemns medicine theft

2010-11-12 12:30

Johannesburg – With the Eastern Cape already confronted by massive health challenges, the alleged theft of medicine worth R200 000 by 12 nurses is gravely concerning, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) said on Friday.

"...As an organisation we have no room for corruption and we utterly condemn any illegal acts by health workers or anyone for that matter," Denosa Eastern Cape provincial secretary, Kholiswa Tota said.

The organisation also called on government to allow the law to take its course.

The nurses were arrested on Wednesday, and appeared briefly in court where they were each granted bail of R1 500 each.

The case was remanded until December 14 for further investigation.

Selling schedule 5 drugs

Eastern Cape health department spokesperson, Sizwe Kupelo, said the nurses were allegedly selling schedule 5 drugs used to treat specific problems.

Kupelo said the arrests vindicated the department, which despite spending a substantial portion of its annual budget on medicines, regularly received complaints that hospitals or clinics were out of stock of particular drugs.

He said it was clear that some staff were selling off department stock to private practitioners or their own relatives.

At least another 23 department officials would be arrested shortly as part of a larger probe into fraud and corruption, he said.

A 39-year-old former employee was arrested at the weekend and appeared in the Zwelitsha Magistrate's Court on Monday on a charge of defrauding the department of R3.7m.

Fake companies

The ex-employee, a personal assistant to a director in primary health care, had been suspended, but resigned before disciplinary proceedings got under way.

The alleged fraud had involved the creation of fake companies to receive payments for items supposedly delivered to clinics.

"The total amount involved is way above the R3.7m," he said.

Kupelo also said the department had blacklisted over 100 companies after discovering that over 200 companies on its data base of suppliers had the same bank accounts.

He said individuals set up several supposedly separate companies, and then colluded with tender officials so that one of the supposedly competing companies got the job.

Double payments

In addition, the department was investigating about R35m in double payments, issued through a combination of companies deliberately re-submitting claims for amounts already paid, and lax financial control in the department.

On Friday, the National Education Health & Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) said it was "deeply shocked and disturbed" by the arrests.

"The union demands a thorough independent investigation by the department of health and if anyone is found to have acted inappropriately we expect the relevant authorities to act accordingly," said spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.

The union said it was "totally" against corruption and it supported the fight against corruption.

"We want to make it clear that we do not support people who steal from public health institutions because they are stealing from the poor."