Nurses arrested over medicine theft

2010-11-11 09:02

 Eight nurses from Mthatha’s Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital have been arrested for allegedly stealing medicine worth about R200 000, the Eastern Cape health department said today.

Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the nurses were arrested yesterday.

Police spokesperson Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela said the group appeared briefly in court yesterday and were granted bail of R1 500 each. The case has been remanded until December 14 for further investigation.

“The nurses were selling schedule 5 drugs... which are used to treat specific problems,” he said.

“We have identified four more nurses who are involved but who were off duty at the time of the arrests... hopefully we will arrest them today.”

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.

Kupelo said 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 Magistrates Court on Monday on a charge of defrauding the department of R3.7 million.

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.

More officials were expected to be arrested in connection with that scam, Kupelo said.

“The total amount involved is way above the R3.7 million,” 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, then colluded with tender officials so that at one of the supposedly competing companies got the job.

In addition, the department was investigating some 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.

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