Durban singled out for kidney ops
CAPE AND JOBURG CENTRES OFF THE HOOK
CAPE Town medical professionals allegedly involved in a national kidney transplant scandal are set to get off scot free with no investigation taking place.
Four Durban surgeons sat in the dock last week for their role in the scam in which Israeli patients were “given” kidneys in private South African hospitals by impoverished nationals from Brazil and Romania who posed as their siblings.
It has, however, come to light that the investigations have ceased in Cape Town despite allegations that doctors and other staff at Netcare’s City Park Hospital (Christian Barnard Memorial) had been involved in the programme.
Newspapers have reported that at first Israelis were paid about $20 000 for their kidneys but then at a later stage, they found that Romanians and Brazilians would accept as little as $6 000.
It was estimated that Netcare accumulated between R19 million and R21 million for the operations.
Three months ago, Health MEC Theuns Botha confirmed that the Commercial Crimes Unit was investigating Cape Town doctors implicated in the scandal, while police spokesman Vish Naidoo confirmed that the investigation was still under way.
This week, however, Brigadier Oliver Neil, speaking on behalf of the Commercial Crimes Unit, said: “Our Cape Town office is not in any way involved in any investigation into the kidney transplant saga”.
When asked if the unit was previously involved in such investigations, Neil declined to answer.
Meanwhile, National Prosecuting Authority national spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said no cases had been brought forward by the SAPS in the Western Cape.
A source close to the case, who cannot be named, said the investigation – which began eight years ago – has been very costly and labour-intensive for the State, and that Cape Town and Joburg professionals would not be prosecuted.
The four implicated doctors, who allege that they too had been led to believe by Netcare that the operations had been above board, believed that the guilt-fine payout either implicitly or explicitly gave the hospital group immunity from further prosecutions, leaving the surgeons to be the scapegoats.
One of the accused, Dr Mahadev Naidoo, said Durban had been singled out, but had been the last to come on board.
One of the co-accused, Professor John Robbs, said that the same people who organised the transplants had done so in all three cities.
Martina Nicholson, speaking on behalf of Netcare, said the hospital group had been “formally instructed in 2004 by the prosecuting authority not to proceed with its own investigation as this might impair investigations by the authorities”, and that the relevant papers had then been confiscated.
Professor Del Kahn, who heads up UCT’s surgery department and who sits on the executive of the Southern African Transplantation Society, raised the alarm about the kidney transplants in Cape Town at the time, but met resistance from the hospital group.
He said: “The investigation started in Durban, and the understanding was that the investigation would move to Cape Town and Joburg once Durban was resolved.”
Meanwhile, the case of the four accused has been adjourned to December 5 with all four co-accused saying they are going to lodge an application before the end of the year to have the charges against them quashed as the process had been “endless”.