DURBAN – Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo barred the SA Human Rights Commission from conducting oversight visits during its probe into the provinces oncology crisis, the commission told the Daily News on Thursday.
Gushwell Brooks, the commissions communications co-ordinator, said they made a presentation to the National Health Portfolio Committee on Wednesday to provide feedback on their investigation into the state of oncology in KwaZulu-Natal. He said gaining access to hospitals for monitoring was one aspect of their feedback to Parliament.
We began our monitoring process on 22 June 2017. The commission has experienced challenges in gaining access to the hospitals. Commission staff were generally not allowed past the security gates and were told by security guards that only authorised personnel could enter. Furthermore, hospital staff have indicated that they were not allowed to speak about the oncology unit to anyone, Brooks said.
The department has been taking flak for the ongoing crisis in its oncology units at Addington and Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central hospitals which led to patients deaths and complaints about lengthy waiting times for treatment.
The exact number of deaths because of the crisis is unknown.
The problem emanates from broken oncology machines and the exodus of oncologists from the state facilities.
When asked if the portfolio committee made any recommendations after the presentation, Brooks said: The commission is an independent Chapter 9 institution, created and mandated in terms of section 184 of the Constitution. It is an independent, nonpartisan state institution that acts without fear or favour and therefore does not receive recommendations or direction from Parliament in the execution of its duties.
When the commission had its opportunity to present its findings, the department was also given an opportunity to make its own presentation.
According to a report submitted to the commission by the department, the most common cancers in KZN are breast, cervical, prostate, head and neck, paediatric haematology, colorectal and dermatological cancers.
The major challenge is the shortage of oncologists. In the past five months the province has lost about five oncologists to the private sector due to the lucrative remuneration and the growing demand for the service in the private sector, reads the report.
There are only two oncologists at Albert Luthuli and none at Addington. The department agreed that oncology services in the province were in a crisis.
In June, the commission found the MEC and his department guilty of violating the rights of cancer sufferers in the province when they failed to provide relevant services and treatment in the provinces two major hospitals.
Dr Imran Keeka, DA provincial health spokesperson, said Dhlomos refusal to allow the commission to perform oversight must be the final nail in his coffin.
Refusing a Chapter 9 institution to exercise its constitutional mandate is illegal and the DA urges the commission to take legal action against MEC Dhlomo. It is high time that the MEC accounts for his lack of action during this crisis, Keeka said.
National Health Portfolio Committee chairperson Lindelwa Dunjwa said they had received the report from the Human Rights Commission, but it was too early to come to a conclusion. The committee still has to consult the Department of Health to hear its side of the story.
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Oncology probe was blocked – Independent Online
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