Denosa condemns Eastern Cape medicine theft

2010-11-12 15:03

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 SA (Denosa) has said.

“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 the 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.

They will appear again on December 14.

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

He said the arrests vindicated the department, which despite spending a substantial portion of its yearly 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, Kupelo said.

A 39-year-old former employee was arrested at the weekend and appeared in the Zwelitsha Magistrates Court on Monday on a charge of defrauding the department.

The former employee, who was 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 R3.7 million,” Kupelo said.

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

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

In addition, the department was investigating about R35 million in double payments, issued through a combination of companies deliberately re-submitting claims for amounts already paid, and lax financial control in the department.

The National Education Health & Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) said today 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.

“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,” Pamla said.

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