Apology wanted over hospital debacle

2013-05-24 22:11

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Durban - Trade union Hospersa on Friday demanded an apology from KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo for shutting down two radiotherapy machines at Durban's Addington Hospital.

The MEC's reasons for the move were "absurd", it said.

"[We are] demanding a public apology from the KwaZulu-Natal health MEC rather than the absurd excuse he has given for switching the machines off in the first place," the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA said in a statement.

Dhlomo announced on Thursday that his department would resume payments to Tecmed, the company responsible for servicing and maintaining the machines.

He told reporters that when the department stopped paying the maintenance contract, which was a part of the original 2009 tender, he had not expected Tecmed technicians to stop servicing the machines.

Hospersa spokesperson Michelle Connolly said: "Firstly, what did he think was going to happen? Secondly, when the technicians stopped coming, his department failed to rectify the matter for the following five months."

Connolly said "the hundreds of cancer patients per day who did not receive their treatment, some of whom are now dying", did not believe Dhlomo.

Neither did Hospersa, and arguably all reasonable South Africans.

She said Hospersa could not say whether Tecmed had acted irregularly or corruptly, but the department's first priority was to its patients.

"So while the department is conducting its investigations... the patients must continue to receive treatment."

She said airing the health department's "callous indifference" to the plight of patients on national television had forced Dhlomo to start paying the maintenance contract.

"The machines have been idle since January. The story ran on Carte Blanche on Sunday night and the machines have been switched on today.

"That, in itself, tells a story," she said.

"For MEC Dhlomo, it is time to render a sincere apology to the people - to the poor who cannot afford medical aid and private medical care and to every nurse, organisation, and citizen who cares. One life [lost] is one life too many."

Tecmed stopped servicing the machines in January after the department stopped paying the maintenance contract nine months earlier, claiming it had been obtained fraudulently.

The machines had been gathering dust since then, denying hundreds of cancer patients speedy treatment.

Dhlomo blamed Tecmed for the machines not operating. He believed that despite deciding to resume payments, the department had a strong case against the company.

He said the resumption of payments would be on a month-to-month basis pending the outcome of investigations, as well as negotiations with Varian, the manufacturer of the machines, called Varian Rapid Arc Linear Accelerators.

Tecmed, which is the South African agent for Varian, has denied any wrongdoing.

The department opened two cases with police against Tecmed in May and July 2010, but the company was never charged.

Read more on:    hospersa  |  sibongiseni dhlomo  |  durban  |  health

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