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)

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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

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