File: KwaZulu-Natal MEC of Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo at the media briefing on the employment status of doctors and newly qualified pharmacists in South Africa.
DURBAN – The IFP in KwaZulu-Natal has slammed provincial Premier Willies Mchunu for his lax approach to members of his provincial cabinet, in particular under fire Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo.
Dhlomo was singled out recently by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for his role in the collapse of the province’s oncology services.
The damning SAHRC report revealed that cancer patients at government facilities on KwaZulu-Natal had to wait at least five months before seeing oncologists and, if cancer radiotherapy was recommended, they would have to wait a further eight months.
On Tuesday, the IFP said Mchunu had given MECs in his cabinet a mandate to do as they pleased knowing that there would be no consequences regarding their failures.
“The failure by the Premier to remove KZN MEC of Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, from his position due to the crisis in the Department of Health is a clear indication that the Premier is not concerned about the health of the citizens of the province,” said IFP spokesperson on health, Ncamisile Nkwanyana.
“MEC Dhlomo has failed dismally to solve the health crisis in the province and by protecting the MEC, the Premier is sending a clear message to all other members of his Cabinet that they can do as they please because they will not be removed from their positions.
“We are of the view that the Premier himself is between a rock and a hard place as he himself can be removed at any time from his position. Now he is afraid of taking drastic action against the MEC of Health because he is afraid that if he removes him he might also be removed from his position as Premier. We expect the Premier to rise above politics and show bold leadership by removing Dr Dhlomo. We can no longer tolerate having a failed MEC that is gambling with peoples’ lives,” Nkwanyana added.
The IFP said the inaction by the premier and the ANC was proof that it would “do anything to protect Dr Dhlomo, even if it meant sacrificing the province’s sick people”.
“It is clear that the HOD of Health, Dr Sifiso Mtshali is being used as a scapegoat and is being made to take responsibility for indiscretions committed long before his time,” the party said.
“When Dr Mtshali was appointed in July 2015, MEC Dhlomo is quoted as saying ‘We have full faith in Dr Mtshali’s ability to run this Department’s R32-billion budget, which is geared towards the prevention and management of diseases in this Province’.
“Why is it that Dr Mtshali is being asked to account for mismanagement that occurred prior to his appointment? We will not let the ANC drag the whole province down with Dhlomo who is clearly unable to turn around the health department,” said Nkwanyana.
The Democratic Alliance has also called on Mchunu to fire Dhlomo “for allowing the Department to deteriorate into such a disastrous state and allowing hundreds of cancer patients to be compromised”.
The province’s health department has come under severe criticism for the state of its hospitals and cancer equipment.
Earlier this month it was reported that the department’s last remaining state-paid oncologists in Durban had resigned while there was only one remaining in Pietermaritzburg.
Much of the current crisis can be traced back to 2012 when the department refused to pay a maintenance contract for two high-tech cancer treatment machines known as Varian Rapid Arc Linear Accelerators at Addington Hospital.
This led to the hospital’s then head of oncology resigning and the maintenance contract being cancelled by the supplier.
The SAHRC ordered the department to immediately repair the two machines and clear the existing backlog of treatment and also recommended that Dhlomo be investigated by the health ombudsman and Mchunu to determine if Dhlomo was accountable and had responded adequately to the crisis.