Sama attacked over contract

2017-10-27 17:01
Association 'silenced' after member's deal with health.

Association 'silenced' after member's deal with health. (File)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories


WATCH: Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing, October 19

2017-10-19 10:02

Relatives of Life Esidimeni patients broke down and sobbed on Wednesday as they heard how the former managing director (MD) of the facility begged the Gauteng department of health for information about where patients were being moved to.WATCH

The South African Medical Association (Sama) has been accused of being “silenced” after an executive committee member’s company scored a contract with the KZN Department of Health.

The Witness has found that Joint Medical Holdings (JMH), a company of which Sama chairperson Dr Mzukisi Grootboom is a director, had entered into an agreement with the department to screen cancer patients and refer them to hospitals in the North Coast area.

A fierce critic of the department, Sama in May hosted a mass march in Durban’s CBD where members handed over a list of demands and complaints to department HOD Dr Sifiso Mtshali.

But now fellow unions and doctors close to the organisation allege Sama has “gone quiet” in recent months, and had not been taking the fight to the department on various issues.

The department has since July commissioned JMH to offer radiotherapy to patients referred to them from Ngwelezana Hospital and Lower Umfolozi Regional Hospital in the North Coast area.

This agreement — approved by KZN Treasury — was set up in response to recommendations made by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which said the department had to make changes to address the oncology crisis in the province.

A progress report to the SAHRC, which The Witness has seen, said JMH should cater for between 50 and 75 patients a month.

Patients referred to JMH are given radiotherapy at RBMI Hospital in Richard’s Bay, which is owned by JMH, the report said.

Grootboom, who has been a director at JMH since 2005, this week denied that the department had effectively bought Sama’s silence. He said the department has met numerous times with the provincial and national departments to address the medical fraternity’s problems.

“Just two weeks ago, we met with the [national] Department of Health to discuss the issue of unplaced [medical] interns,” he said.

He explained that JMH had agreed to the contract after it was “critically discussed” among the board. He said he had declared the deal to the Sama board.

He said the company made the agreement because they were already at the time helping Addington and Inkosi Albert Luthuli hospitals with oncology matters at no cost to the department.

“Our view was to say that, since it’s a desperate situation, we can’t allow patients to suffer. Everything was above board, no laws were broken, no treasury rules were broken.”

Grootboom said he was unsure about how much JMH was now being paid by the department.

A high-ranking Sama member said the agreement “was not good for the reputation of Sama”, and it should not have entered into the agreement.

A KZN doctor, who has from December been in contact with Sama to try and address the issue of doctors going without jobs at public hospitals, said he had seen a difference in Sama’s behaviour around the time the contract was awarded.

“They made a noise [in the May march] but then they just left the situation. All of a sudden they stopped.”

DA spokesperson on Health in the province Dr Imran Keeka did not believe Grootboom was awarded the contract by preferential treatment, but said: “If anything suggests conflict of interest, this should be procedurally resolved.”

The KZN Department of Health refused to answer questions sent last week. Spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi told The Witness to put the questions to Sama, and said the department did not want to be “dragged” into this matter.

The KZN Treasury did not respond to questions sent last week.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  department of health

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.