- The North West health department says the suspension of Professor Ebrahim Variava is based on "serious allegations" against him.
- Health MEC Madoda Sambatha says he will be afforded the opportunity to defend himself once investigations are concluded and when he goes through a disciplinary hearing.
- The medical community has condemned the suspension.
The North West Department of Health says the suspension of Professor Ebrahim Variava is on the basis of "serious allegations" against him.
"The department values the contribution of Professor Variava over the years. His suspension is on the basis of the allegations levelled against him.
"It is to allow the investigation against him to proceed unhindered by his presence as some of his colleagues already allege intimidation from him," Health MEC Madoda Sambatha said on Wednesday.
"Once the investigation against him is concluded, he will go through a disciplinary hearing where he will also be afforded the opportunity to defend himself," Sambatha added.
This after the medical community condemned the suspension of Variava, the head of internal medicine at Klerksorp Tshepong Hospital, and asked the department to reverse its decision.
News24 earlier reported 250 top medical professionals as well as the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society condemned the suspension, saying it was not in the interest of patients or the hospital.
Variava, who has worked at the hospital for two decades, was reportedly suspended "without warning" on Monday.
"In terms of the Labour Relations Act, a precautionary suspension is usually imposed when an employer wants to conduct an internal investigation of an issue and anticipates disciplinary action against an employee.
"Essentially, the employer wants to ensure that the employee does not interfere with the investigation. This type of suspension means the employee still receives a full salary and benefits while suspended," Sambatha said.
He added Variava's contribution was appreciated.
However, Sambatha said, it was still the intention of the department to instill fairness, discipline and labour stability to investigate the allegations.
"The department will appoint an independent body to handle the disciplinary process of Professor Variava.
"The independent body will be given seven days to complete the process and give me a report to consider. Until then, I will not interfere with administrative processes," he added.
This as the province recorded 1 402 confirmed Covid-19 cases, 175 recoveries and five deaths as of Thursday afternoon.
In addition, 2 038 contacts have been identified, of which 1 897 have been successfully traced.
The allocation of cases in the province is an ongoing process.