30 April 2013

Probe into Addington cancer saga

Opposition parties called for an investigation into why two state-of-the-art cancer radiotherapy machines worth R120 million are lying idle at a Durban Hospital.


Opposition parties called for an investigation into why two state-of-the-art cancer radiotherapy machines worth R120 million are lying idle at a Durban Hospital.

"The IFP in KZN is horrified and deeply angered to learn that patients are refused oncology treatment while DOH (department of health) is investigating fraud," Inkatha Freedom party spokeswoman Usha Roopnarain said.

She said the party would call for an investigation into any tender irregularities.

The department's failure to keep them running was "a violation of patient care and ethics, and DOH has a mission for optimal care. Clearly our DOH is doing the exact opposite".

Democratic Alliance spokeswoman Makhosazana Mdlalose said the party would call for "an urgent site visit by the province's health portfolio committee following reports that hundreds of critically ill cancer patients are being turned away while a departmental investigation into a supposedly flawed tender process drags on".

She said when the committee visited the hospital six months ago health officials assured them that problems were being addressed.

"We also need to get answers from the MEC [Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo] and his HOD [Dr Sibongile Zungu] on all internal investigations involving Addington hospital. During the past year we have had little feedback. The time for excuses is over."

African Christian Democratic Party health spokeswoman Jo-Ann Downs said caring for patients should be the health department's first priority.

"The issue with the radiation machines that are standing idle is an absolute disgrace. If there was corruption the investigation could have been completed in days," she said.

"Instead the company who contracted to supply and maintain the machines gave services in good faith even when payment was not forthcoming."

She said Dhlomo needed to address the situation at the hospital urgently.

"Waiting for five months for treatment could mean a death penalty for many. It is simply not acceptable when machines, knowledge and effective treatment is available," Downs said.

Waiting list increases

On Sunday, the Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) said cancer patients at Addington Hospital in Durban were being robbed of their right to health care.

"The sad reality for these chronically ill cancer patients, who wait while government investigates its flawed tendering process, is that they are not able to benefit from the fruits of freedom," Hospersa spokesman Noel Desfontaines said in a statement.

The union was saddened by the hospital's inability to provide sufficient treatment to cancer patients.

It was reacting to a report that the KwaZulu-Natal health department apparently failed to pay a maintenance contract for two radiotherapy machines.

The non-payment meant about 100 patients a day, who would have received treatment at the facility, were referred to Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital over the last four months.

The department allegedly did not pay for maintenance because a R120m tender for the machines was fraudulently obtained. The department had not responded to queries for comment on the accusations.

Zungu told The Daily News last year the department was investigating the tender, awarded to Tecmed Africa in 2010.

Tecmed denied any impropriety in the procurement process.

One radiotherapist, who asked not to be named, believed Addington's waiting list had increased to between four and five months since the machines stopped operating at the beginning of the year.



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