NEWS & ANALYSIS

SAHRC must not allow MEC Dhlomo to escape justice – DA KZN

Imran Keeka says the province's oncology crisis has been brewing since 2012

#KZNOncologyCrisis: SAHRC must not allow MEC Dhlomo to escape justice

14 May 2018

The DA welcomes the long-awaited appearance of KZN Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, before the South African Human Rights Commission later today to account for the province’s ongoing oncology crisis.

Above all, the SAHRC must not allow MEC Dhlomo to escape justice for his uncaring and lethargic response which has led to the deaths of possibly more than 500 cancer patients as a result of delays in treatment or a lack of access to proper oncology services in the province’s hospitals.

In an earlier parliamentary reply to questions by the DA, the MEC confirmed that 349 patients died at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital from cancer in 2015 and 2016. A further 150 deaths were reported at Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg during the same period. This brings the total to 499 deaths. This is the official number. It does not account for those who died at home and in care facilities.

For far too long, MEC Dhlomo has tried every trick in the book to evade accountability. The province’s oncology crisis did not begin when the SAHRC released its report along with recommendations in June 2017. It has been brewing since 2012.

The first signs of trouble came when oncologists started resigning and the maintenance contract for the province’s oncology machines came under threat. It was under MEC Dhlomo’s watch that these contracts were interfered with and eventually collapsed. This was prior to the arrival of the former HOD Dr Sifiso Mtshali who was recently fingered for this. While the matter pertaining to Dr Mtshali has been spoken about by Dr Dhlomo, neither the Legislature nor the Health Portfolio committee have seen the any forensic report.

The MEC’s lack of interest in resolving this crisis has also added to backlogs and death. The DA is advised that an oncologist at Greys Hospital has recently resigned. This will only worsen the already seven month backlog to access radiotherapy at that facility.

On a more positive note, the DA has received confirmation that one of the replacement oncology machines at Addington Hospital has finally arrived. The spare parts for the second machine are also in KZN. The software licenses are being finalised and the functionality of the machines to be in operation by the end of June seems to be on track.

At this point the DA does not trust any information released by MEC Dhlomo when it comes to improving oncology treatment in the province. This after the ongoing peddling of fake news and false information since the SAHRC first released its damning report 10 months ago. It is clear that MEC Dhlomo simply cannot help himself when it comes to stretching the truth. In terms of the current oncology contracts in the province, the outlook is bleak;

- The temporary contract for oncologists at Inkosi Albert Luthuli which was awarded on 1 February 2018 only took effect on 15 February 2018 and is only valid for six months

- While the MEC has been bragging about the expansion of oncology services at Ngwelezana Hospital, this too is a temporary contract that came to an end at the end of March 2018. While the DA has not been able to obtain confirmation from the JMH group, a source within the KZN DoH has mentioned that the arrangement is under strain after the Department allegedly failed to pay the consortium to either continue services or for services provided for the month preceding the financial year ending March 31

- The Department also had to abandon the recruitment of an oncologist from Egypt recently because of a continental agreement preventing such.

The DA will continue to pursue a case of culpable homicide against MEC Dhlomo. The legal opinion we have received from a top KZN legal expert has strengthened our resolve and has confirmed that the process we are following is in order.

Today, the SAHRC needs to see through MEC Dhlomo’s lacklustre excuses. They need to demand from him the number of patients that have died as a result of his ineptitude and, above all, they need to hold him accountable for this gross abuse of human rights.

He must not be allowed to escape justice. The DA will not relent until there is justice and until such time as there is an improvement in oncology services in our province.

Update:

#KZNOncologyCrisis: MEC Dhlomo tries to worm his way out of accountability for hundreds of deaths

A South African Human Rights Commission subpoenaed hearing with KZN Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, earlier today was marked by contradictions and furtive attempts by the MEC and his acting HOD to pull the wool over the Commission’s eyes.

Worse still, the MEC tried to worm his way out of taking responsibility for an ongoing oncology crisis in the province, which has led to the deaths of some 500 cancer patients.

It is almost a year since the SAHRC found Dhlomo guilty of having violated the rights of cancer sufferers in KZN to access adequate treatment at the province’s state hospitals and clinics.  Since then both the DA and the Commission have made numerous recommendations and suggestions.

Yet today’s hearing has revealed that the current waiting period for treatment of most forms of cancer in the province is as long as twelve months – longer than it has ever been. This is a damning indictment against Dhlomo and his Department along with KZN Premier, Willies Mchunu, who has failed to act against this failed MEC.

In fact, the only progress revealed today is that a new oncologist will start at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital (IALH) in July. This as another oncologist leaves Greys Hospital. Meanwhile, the JMH Consortium contract for oncology services has been extended for a further 18 months to allow for 75 patients to be seen each month.

Today MEC Dhlomo tried to lay the blame on anyone else he could think of, even blaming Tecmed – the company previously responsible for the maintenance of the province’s Oncology machines – for the situation he finds himself in.

The hearing also saw Dhlomo and his acting HOD Dr Musa Gumede contradict each other. During the Acting HOD’s testimony he stated that the procurement of oncology machines is done provincially. This despite the MEC’s earlier attempt in the KZN legislature, to pass the buck by claiming that it is a national mandate.

The acting HOD then tried to blame the current shortage of oncologists on the university of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Yet it was the Department under MEC Dhlomo that stopped the intake of registrars during 2014/15.

The DA urges the SAHRC to continue to demand accountability. They cannot allow the MEC to escape justice.  We remain committed to exploring the possibility of a culpable homicide case against MEC Dhlomo. He has blood on his hands and he must pay for his role in the province’s oncology crisis.

Issued by Imran KeekaDA KZN Spokesperson on Health, 14 May 2018