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Port Elizabeth - Thirty doctors, pharmacists and Eastern Cape health officials have been implicated in an investigation into the theft of medicine, the department said on Wednesday.
“According to a report on the information gathered, the medicine was allegedly sold to private doctors by corrupt officials,” spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said.
“The report states that there are pharmacists who allegedly resigned and opened a private pharmacy in a rural town using state medicine.”
Kupelo said the information for the report was gathered with the assistance of a private forensics firm. The theft had allegedly happened at the medicine depot and during transit since 2009, he said.
The doctors, from Port Elizabeth, Mthatha, Elliot, Barkly East, Ugie, Mt Frere, Qumbu and Mqanduli, had allegedly been buying stolen drugs and chronic medication from corrupt officials, he said.
Twelve officials working as pharmacists in Queenstown, Engcobo, King William’s Town, Peddie and Mthatha had also been implicated.
Kupelo said the department forwarded the information to the police for further investigation and to arrest those implicated but that no arrests have been made.
“It is costing millions. The department of health spends R3
billion annually to ensure the availability of medicine in state hospitals and clinics,” said Kupelo.
“However, despite this huge expenditure communities continue to cry about shortage of medicine particularly in clinics. These can be attributed to the fact that these medicines are stolen.”
Five officials were arrested last year and appeared in the Mthatha Magistrate's Court on September 9.
The case was postponed to November 7 for trial, said Kupelo.
“Nozibele Nqunqa, Nolitha Kanise and Bantubekhaya Phingilili will go on trial in November. The other two have since turned State witnesses.”
Kupelo said the department was working with the police and had handed over the report to bring all those involved to book.