Sibongiseni Dhlomo. Picture: SOWETAN
Sibongiseni Dhlomo. Picture: SOWETAN

KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo was involved in a heated confrontation with the DA on Monday, after a delegation from the party was prevented from entering a public hospital to look at how cancer patients were treated.

This came a month after a 68-page report by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) concluded that the provincial health department had failed cancer patients.

According to the report, "the delays in the provision of‚ and in some cases the denial of‚ oncology services to cancer patients‚ some of whom are destitute and in need of healthcare‚ affects them in a most fundamental way".

The SAHRC’s investigation followed a complaint lodged by the DA’s KwaZulu-Natal health spokesperson, Imran Keeka‚ in February 2016. Keeka had raised the alarm about a dire staffing crisis pertaining to oncology specialists and other medical staff‚ coupled with insufficient and nonfunctioning oncology machines and delays in treating patients.

The department has until the end of July to fully respond to the report by the SAHRC.

On Monday, Keeka and the DA’s national health spokesperson, Patricia Kopane, sought to enter Addington Hospital’s oncology unit but were prevented from doing so and physically removed by security guards.

Kopane said she had phoned Dhlomo to arrange the visit, and that Dhlomo had not objected but only expressed his reservations at not involving the National Assembly’s multiparty committee.

The DA is calling for Dhlomo to be removed from his position for incompetence.

But Dhlomo hit back, saying the DA delegation was there to score political points and did not follow procedure. He said oversight visits by MPLs and MPs needed to be arranged and organised through the health portfolio committee to ensure minimal disruptions to patient privacy and patient care.

"Political parties like the DA should know better to not just show up at a health facility as and when they feel like it. This visit was opportunistic. These visits are best done by multiparty standing committees," the MEC said.

"We cannot just allow all 400 MPs to just wake up one day and show up at our facilities because that could be highly disruptive, as hospital or clinic management and staff must stop attending to patients and engage those visiting for oversight purposes," he said.

Dhlomo said the prerogative to fire and hire government officials, MECs and ministers lay with the ANC, and was not with in the hands of the opposition.

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