Health head ‘the sac­ri­fi­cial lamb for on­col­ogy cri­sis’


KWAZULU-NATAL health de­part­ment head Dr Si­fiso Mt­shali has been sus­pended over KZN’s on­col­ogy cri­sis.

Just over two years ago Mt­shali was praised by MEC Si­bongiseni Dhlomo for his “ster­ling work” in run­ning Inkosi Al­bert Luthuli Cen­tral Hospi­tal un­til 2015, when he was ap­pointed de­part­ment head.

On Mon­day the de­part­ment sus­pended Mt­shali af­ter the un­re­solved on­col­ogy cri­sis, which has led to the death of an undis­closed num­ber of can­cer pa­tients around the prov­ince.

Yes­ter­day, Mt­shali could only con­firm the sus­pen­sion, but would not com­ment fur­ther as the mat­ter was sub ju­dice.

A source close to the mat­ter said the sus­pen­sion re­volved around the on­col­ogy cri­sis.

Mt­shali’s sus­pen­sion came as no sur­prise given Health Min­is­ter Aaron Mot­soaledi’s ut­ter­ances at an in­ter­view with the Daily News in June af­ter the out­cry about bro­ken on­col­ogy ma­chines in Ad­ding­ton Hospi­tal. He had said the de­part­ment head, not the MEC, was to blame.

Mot­soaledi blamed non-func­tional pro­cure­ment pro­cesses and the award­ing of tenders to in­com­pe­tent com­pa­nies in favour of lo­cal eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment as a rea­son for the ex­o­dus of on­col­o­gists.

“The heads of de­part­ments are re­spon­si­ble for the pro­cure­ment. In this case, the KZN health de­part­ment head messed up,” Mot­soaledi said at the time.

A for­mer of­fi­cial, who asked not to be named, said the de­part­ment is­sue was com­plex.

“Mt­shali was parachuted into that po­si­tion. He had in­suf­fi­cient ex­pe­ri­ence and it would seem that this was de­lib­er­ate be­cause he had not much say in ad- min­is­tra­tive mat­ters. How of­ten has he re­sponded to the me­dia on de­part­ment ad­min­is­tra­tive is­sues? When he was el­e­vated to that po­si­tion he be­came like a zom­bie, while the MEC poked his nose into the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the de­part­ment.”

On the on­col­ogy “mess”, the of­fi­cial said the de­part­ment should be look­ing back to 2008 when the can­cer ma­chines were pro­cured for R120 mil­lion.

This was in ref­er­ence to the two ma­chines bought for Ad­ding­ton Hospi­tal, with their pur­chase turn­ing into an in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter al­le­ga­tions of fraud and cor­rup­tion.

Politi­cians and doc­tors were im­pli­cated in the saga.

Mt­shali was ap­pointed de­part­ment head in July 2015.

Dur­ing his ap­point­ment, MEC Dhlomo had praised him for his ster­ling work in run­ning the fa­cil­ity.

“He (Mt­shali) brings a wealth of knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence and has led the Inkosi Al­bert Luthuli Cen­tral Hospi­tal with dis­tinc­tion. Just re­cently, the hospi­tal was hailed as sec­ond only to Steve Biko Aca­demic Hospi­tal (in Pre­to­ria) in the achieve­ment of the na­tional core stan­dards,” Dhlomo said.

Yes­ter­day, the de­part­ment did not re­spond to e-mailed ques­tions re­gard­ing the sus­pen­sion.

Spokesper­son Agiza Hlong- wane said HODs were ap­pointed by the pre­mier.

The sus­pen­sion came as no sur­prise to the DA. Party spokesper­son on health Dr Imran Keeka said he un­der­stood that the sus­pen­sion had been on the cards since June.

“KZN’s on­col­ogy and other health crises did not hap­pen overnight. They also did not hap­pen un­der Dr Mt­shali’s watch alone. The com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor is MEC Dhlomo. While the DA ac­knowl­edges the pre­mier’s right to hold of­fi­cials ac­count­able, it is very clear that Dr Mt­shali is the lat­est scape­goat to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for a po­lit­i­cal bun­gle,” Keeka said.

He said the pre­mier’s “big­gest folly” was not re­mov­ing MEC Dhlomo who, for eight years, has done noth­ing to pre­vent the col­lapse of the de­part­ment.

“This is the MEC who, ac­cord­ing to Dr Mt­shali’s frank ad­mis­sion in a re­cent min­is­te­rial task team re­port, med­dled ex­ten­sively and il­le­gally in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the de­part­ment,” he said.

In the re­port, Mt­shali ex­pressed con­cern that the role clar­i­fi­ca­tion be­tween the MEC and him­self was at times not clear be­cause the MEC wanted to man­age as the HOD.

He fur­ther noted the lack of skills in the de­part­ment’s man­age­ment team.

Mt­shali said he felt sup­port from the man­age­ment team was lack­ing since his ap­point­ment.

Yes­ter­day evening KZN Pre­mier Willies Mchunu said he was in Cape Town.

“On our re­turn, we will sign for his re­place­ment. The sus­pen­sion is the first stage of the dis­ci­plinary process against Dr Mt­shali. For now, he has not been charged. We can­not com­ment fur­ther on the mat­ter,” he said.


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