The office of the minister of health has responded to the Democratic Alliance’s charges against the MEC and the minister of health and dismisses them as “playing politics”.
The DA appeared at the Point Police Station in Durban this morning to lay charges of culpable homicide against Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and the KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, but claimed that they were prevented from laying the charges, after waiting for hours to open a case.
“The officers on duty did everything in their power to delay and frustrate our efforts to lay these charges. After three hours of back and forth, it became apparent that the SAPS would only accept an inquiry into the matter and would not accept the DA laying charges,”, said the DA health spokesperson Patricia Kopane this afternoon.
The charges came after the South African Human Rights Commission’s investigative report found that the department of health and the MEC were guilty of violating the patients’ rights to have access to healthcare. These charges were in relation to the death of more than 300 cancer patients in KwaZulu-Natal hospitals.
“We believe that the DA is playing politics in laying charges against the minister of health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi,” said the minister’s spokesperson, Joe Maila.
The DA maintained the deaths of the patients were due to negligence of Motsoaledi and Dhlomo.
“We hope the police will investigate and refer the case to the National Prosecuting Authority so that they can prosecute the department and hopefully take the case to court for an appropriate judgment to be made,” said Dr Imran Keeka, the DA provincial health spokesperson
The cancer patients were being treated at Addington and the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central hospitals, which have a shortage of oncologists and oncology equipment.
As a result of this, there was a backlog of patients, who waited months for treatment.
The KwaZulu-Natal department of health failed to settle a R6 million debt with Tecmed Africa, the company responsible for supplying and maintaining oncology equipment at Addington Hospital.
The department has since agreed to settle this bill.
Keeka said they were relying on the law to take its course so that public servants were held responsible.
“The MEC has shown in the past that without the DA’s complaints he would have done nothing,” said Keeka. “The families need closure.”
The commission’s investigation found that patients had to wait five months to see an oncologist and an additional eight months to receive cancer radiotherapy treatment.
“The DA is aware that the minister assembled a team to investigate the matter in KwaZulu-Natal and established that the matter is purely administrative, procurement in particular and not a national issue,” said Maila.
The human rights commission report into the state of health care services in KwaZulu-Natal found that both the provincial and the national departments of health acted unlawfully when they failed to take reasonable measures to progressively realise the right to have access to health care services in the province.
Maila said the minister would answer to charges in court.
City Press contacted the KwaZulu-Natal department of health for comment but did not receive a response.
*This article was updated at 4.30pm to reflect the challenges faced by the DA representatives when they tried to lay the charges.