Angry Kidneygate doctor slams Netcare

2011-02-26 18:39

An angry top surgeon who performed “illegal” kidney transplants at a Durban hospital says he was told by hospital giant Netcare that everything was above board.

“We want this to go to trial,” Dr John Robbs said yesterday.

“There were more than 200 other transplants carried out in Johannesburg and Cape Town. We are not going to carry the can for those doctors and Netcare; there is no way,” said Robbs, one of four doctors charged over the transplants at Netcare’s St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban.

On Wednesday the four doctors and two Netcare transplant co-ordinators turned down a plea-bargain deal with the prosecution.

Health authorities are now considering a new probe into Nectare over the role it played in South Africa’s illegal kidney transplant scandal.

KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said he would hold talks with national health minister Aaron Motsoa-ledi to decide whether action should be taken against Netcare – which is licensed to operate by the national ministry – over its role in the illegal transplants at St Augustine’s.

Dhlomo’s move comes on the heels of disclosures by the Saturday Star that kidney transplants were also performed in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Netcare CEO Richard Friedland said this week that the group and its staff “will co-operate with any such investigation, in the same way as Netcare has similarly co-operated with the police and prosecution”.

Last year the company paid a fine of R4 million and forfeited assets worth R3.8 million to the state after the group – which had earlier pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing – changed its plea.

The fine and seizures were part of a plea-bargain deal Netcare struck with the National Prosecuting Authority over its role in 109 illegal transplants carried out at St Augustine’s.

Robbs said he and his fellow accused had been offered a deal which included community service and an admission that they should have investigated the transplants themselves.

“We are not going to sign anything that says we are guilty or that implies such. We were assured by Netcare that these transplants were legal and above board.

“We are not the ones who organised the transplants. We were a team brought in by Netcare to conduct the transplants. This matter has to go to trial so that the truth comes out,” Robbs said.

Police sources told City Press that a full investigation and trial arising from all the transplants carried out by Netcare could take “up to 10 years” to finalise.

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