State incurs medical costs after R120m tender bungle

Failure to pay a maintenance contract for two state-of-the-art radio therapy machines at a Durban hospital has forced the KwaZulu-Natal provincial health department to send cancer patients to a private hospital.

This was revealed by the KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo at a provincial health portfolio committee meeting in Pietermaritzburg yesterday. While he did not reveal details of how many patients were affected, or how much this would cost the state, he did say that the patients were being sent to Parklands Hospital.

“With the challenges we have had [at Addington Hospital], we have since decided to get that service done at Parklands Hospital where we get them to see a batch of our patients continuously.”

The department has been at loggerheads with Tecmed Africa, the company that installed the two Varian RapidArc linear accelerator machines.

The two machines and associated equipment were installed after Tecmed was awarded a R120 million tender in 2009. Part of the tender was a five-year maintenance contract valued at R33m.

This, according to Tecmed, was reduced to R26m after the department asked for a more cost-effective deal.

Dhlomo has refused to pay the R430 000 monthly maintenance contract, claiming that the department was supplied old machines and not the new ones they were promised.

“You cannot understand why you are buying a brand new machine and suddenly realise the machine was not brand new,” said Dhlomo.

The tender has been under investigation since 2009, but to date no one has been charged and Tecmed has always denied any wrongdoing.

Yesterday, Dhlomo said that the investigations were “at and advanced level and we would not be surprised if in a month of two if ... there are going to be arrests of people with regards to those machines.”

He said he would not be surprised if former officials were among those arrested.

“But since 2009 people have been investigating without closing this matter and then we came to realise they were not serious. And this matter has been taken to another route and [Hawks head Lieutenant-General Anwa] Dramat is really on top of the matter. We are very excited that things might get sorted out and finalised.”

Hawks spokesperson Captain Paul Ramaloko confirmed that the Hawks were looking at the case.

Professor Amo Jordaan, who headed Addington’s oncology department from 1980 and quit in 2012 over the failure to keep the machines operational, said last year that up to 100 patients daily could receive radiotherapy when the machines were up and running.

Following the installation of the machines, Addington Hospital’s waiting list for cancer treatment was cut from eight months to two weeks.

Jordaan said he was surprised to hear that the they were being told the machines were old.

“They were state-of-the-art in the world,” he said, adding that he had seen the machines for the first time in 2008.

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