Natal Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo and his acting head of the provincial health department have appeared in front of the Human Rights Commission of South Africa (HRCSA) in Braamfontein to account for the ongoing oncology crisis in the province.
Dhlomo and Dr Musa Gumede were summoned to appear before the commission on Monday after investigations got under way into alleged violations of the rights of cancer patients. The two hospitals that formed part of the investigation in the province are Addington Hospital and Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital.
News24 previously reported that the provincial department had decided to partner with private hospitals and specialists to address the issue.
On Monday, Gumede said: "We are making efforts and strides towards that direction. I can't say that we've got a Ferrari at the moment, but we've got a car that works, and people can make use of it."
He said the department had two students currently finishing their training in the Western Cape and the Free State, who could hopefully soon be employed by the KwaZulu-Natal health department to fill vacancies in the oncology department.
Gumede added that the "exodus" in the department was as a result of the breakdown in the relationship between the KwaZulu-Natal health department and the University of KwaZulu-Natal's (UKZN) medical school.
He said the department had filled eight of the nine head of department vacancies in critical cancer positions, and that only the oncology department position still needed to be filled.
'He must not be allowed to escape justice'
Dhlomo, who only appeared briefly, said the problems in the department predated his time as MEC.
He said he had engaged with the national Department of Health over how to deal with the issue.
A report on the matter is expected to be finalised soon.
The DA's spokesperson on health, Dr Imran Keeka, said the opposition party would continue to pursue a case of culpable homicide against Dhlomo.
"He must not be allowed to escape justice. The DA will not relent until there is justice and until such time as there is an improvement in oncology services in our province," Keeka said.
Keeka urged the commission not to allow Dhlomo to escape justice "for his uncaring and lethargic response", which had led to "the deaths of possibly more than 500 cancer patients".
"The MEC's lack of interest in resolving this crisis has also added to backlogs and death. The DA is advised that an oncologist at Grey's Hospital has recently resigned. This will only worsen the already seven-month backlog to access radiotherapy at that facility," he said.