A much-awaited forensic investigation report into the breakdown and disrepair of two cancer radiotherapy machines at Durban’s Addington Hospital will probably not be made public because it contained “nothing new”.
KwaZulu-Natal finance MEC Belinda Scott said told African News Agency (ANA) on Friday, that “certain key people from national government” were getting a full brief on the forensic report, but it was “certainly not open” to the media.
The report was expected to cover alleged procurement irregularities within KZN’s embattled health department and to supply information on maintenance contracts for two Varian RapidArc linear accelerators at Addington.
Scott at first said she would not release a statement on the report or the report itself, but then said “not yet”. When asked if the public did not deserve to know the outcome, she said: “I think you already do know. I mean it’s been all over the news about the oncology machines – there is nothing new”.
In April 2016, ANA revealed that the KZN health department had entered into a deal with KwaZulu-Natal Oncology Inc. that had literally broken every rule governing the way government departments are meant to procure services.
On Wednesday, national Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told the national health portfolio committee that Scott would make a presentation on the report on Friday. Opposition parties, unions, civic organisations and other interested and affected parties have been awaiting the findings.
Democratic Alliance (DA) provincial spokesperson on health, Dr Imran Keeka, said on Friday that KZN health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo had told members of the select committee on social services and select committee on education and recreation at a debriefing session at Albert Luthuli Hospital on Thursday night that the report would be released on Friday.
“The DA anticipates that the probe, amongst other matters, will include findings regarding a company that has supplied radiotherapy equipment to the department and confirmation of payment irregularities. The Health MEC has mooted this for years,” said Keeka.
“In the event that this is the case, the DA will insist that the findings be forwarded to the [Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, known as the] Hawks who have been investigating the matter since 2010 without progress. It is hoped that any new information will strengthen their case and spur action on their side.”
Keeka said that if the report was not released, it would mean pronouncements made to this effect by Dhlomo and Motsoaledi were “misleading”.
The state of KwaZulu-Natal’s public healthcare system has come under intense scrutiny since the release of a South African Human Rights Commission report into the provincial health department.
The report made damning allegations against the department and Dhlomo for failure to manage a growing exodus of oncologists while simultaneously failing to fix the two radiation machines at Addington. The disrepair of the machines led to excessive waiting periods for cancer treatment at other hospitals and is suspected of contributing to hundreds of deaths of patients awaiting treatment.
In a statement released on Friday, general secretary of trade union Hospersa, Noel Desfontaines, said they were awaiting Treasury’s report with “bated breath”.
“We signalled the alarm bells in 2009 when the department of health was caught up in a multi-million rand corruption scandal involving the maintenance contract of radiography machines at Addington Hospital. This corruption scandal had a domino effect that resulted in many lives lost due to limited access to cancer treatment,” he said.
Desfontaines said the union had “no doubt” that senior officials in the province were implicated in the 2009 corruption deal, which it believes led to the current crisis.
“Government needs to send out a clear message that corruption will not be tolerated especially in instance where it has had a direct result to the loss of human lives,” said Desfontaines.
“We reiterate our call for the KZN Health MEC to be held accountable for allowing cancer treatment in the province to collapse and for the many lives that lost their fight against cancer due to the broken machines, shortage of staff and poor working conditions in KZN Public Health facilities.”