‘Don’t blame the MEC’

2012-11-15 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal health department yesterday defended the use of an emergency helicopter by MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo, saying he could not be blamed for the death of a Durban teenager on the day it was needed.

Department head Dr Sibongile Zungu said Dhlomo had to attend to an emergency in the uMkhanyakude District Municipality.

However, she declined to elaborate on the nature of the emergency, saying only that it was a dispute between a doctor and young girls, and that it was a sensitive issue

It was reported at the weekend that Dhlomo used one of the only two Emergency Medical Rescue Services (EMRS) helicopters when it was needed in Durban last week.

Dhlomo was blamed for the death of Durban boy Asheen Maharaj (15), who was left brain dead after an accident near Pinetown last week. Asheen died later in hospital, while his sister Asheena (19), mother Ashnee and father Ashwin died on the scene.

An EMRS helicopter was required to airlift the boy to hospital, but as Dhlomo was using it, paramedics had to summon the remaining one from Richards Bay.

Zungu told reporters yesterday it was unfair and insensitive for people to blame the MEC.

“Dr Dhlomo did not violate any policy when he used the EMRS helicopter.

“The information we gathered suggests that the teenager had sustained critical injuries and regardless of the mode of transport used to transport him, his condition would not have improved,” she said.

The Richards Bay-based helicopter was later called off 17 minutes before arriving on the scene, after communication between paramedics and the helicopter crew.

Zungu said her department had a contract with Air Mercy Services to transport patients and administrative staff between far-flung areas. The MEC was part of the administrative staff and used the helicopter at least once a month. Zungu said flights were booked in advance and did not interfere with medical services.

Meanwhile, officials at KwaHlabisa and Mseleni Hospitals declined to comment about the emergency that brought Dhlomo to the area.

“It was a week-and-a-half ago. I don’t know what the issues were; I just saw the dignitaries here,” said an official.

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