KZN health pays to keep cancer-treatment machines

2013-07-23 11:21

The KwaZulu-Natal health department has now paid the maintenance contract to keep two state-of-the-art cancer radiotherapy machines operational at Addington Hospital, in Durban.

Werner Bergere, the CEO of Tecmed, the company that installed the two Varian Rapid Arc Linear Accelerators, confirmed today that the company received payment yesterday.

Last night, KwaZulu-Natal health spokesperson Desmond Motha said the department had paid the contract.

The two machines stopped operating in January, after Tecmed refused to service them, claiming that it had not been paid since March 2012.

There is only one other machine of this kind in the country.

The machines in Durban were installed by Tecmed in 2010 after it was awarded a R120 million tender, which included a R33 million maintenance contract over five years. The maintenance contract was later reduced to R26 million.

By the time the machines stopped working, Addington’s oncology department, which receives patients from across the province, had cut its waiting time for treatment from eight months to two weeks.

The department claimed it suspended the contract because of corruption involved in the tender. Tecmed denied any wrongdoing.

The department filed two complaints with the police in May and July 2010, but no charges have been brought yet.

Patients from Addington have been transferred to the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, which has three radiotherapy machines.

Waiting times at the hospital have reportedly grown to between four and five months.

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said payments would be made on a month-to-month basis, pending ongoing investigations.

Dhlomo and health department head Dr Sibongile Zungu have denied putting patients’ lives at risk.

The SA Human Rights Commission said last week that it was investigating a complaint against the department, lodged by Addington’s oncology department’s former head Professor Amo Jordaan.

Jordan quit the post he had occupied since 1981 in anger at the department’s failure to pay the maintenance contract.

He previously said the machines reduced the need for prolonged radiotherapy and were much more accurate in dealing with tumours.

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