Durban - A second top oncologist has quit in the wake of the KwaZulu-Natal health department's failure to keep two state-of-the-art radiotherapy machines operational at Durban's Addington Hospital, Sapa was told on Friday.
Professor Amo Jordaan, who headed up the hospital's oncology department since 1980 and was instrumental in getting the two Varian Rapid Arc Linear Accelerators, quit at the end of 2012.
Sapa was informed that Dr Neil Narsai had also quit and left for a private practice at the end of the May.
Narsai could not be reached for comment, but Jordaan confirmed that he was aware that Narsai had left.
“He was very good in his work. He worked quietly and very hard. The department will miss him and his input,” said Jordaan.
The department stopped paying the maintenance contract early last year and the company Tecmed continued to service the machines for a further nine months despite not being paid.
The machines stopped operating in January this year, once Tecmed had stopped servicing them. The maintenance contract was part of the R120 million tender in 2009, which the department alleged involved corruption.
Apart from Narsai and Jordaan a radio therapist had also quit.
Jordaan estimated that the two oncology departments at Addington Hospital and Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital received 4000 new cancer cases a year.
The two hospitals between them now have four oncologists and nine registrars (trainee doctors) to deal with the workload.
Sapa confirmed that two cases were opened in May and July 2010
by the department and that they were with the Anti Corruption Task Team.
Hawks spokesman Paul Ramaloko said he could not divulge details about the cases, but confirmed that, “fraud, corruption and the circumventing of the PFMA (Public Finance Management Act) tender procedures”.
He said that investigations were nearing completion.
National Prosecuting Authority spokeswoman Natasha Ramkisson said:”According to our records, this matter does not appear on any of our court rolls. According to my mandate and the NPA at large, I can only comment on a matter once it has appeared before a court.”
A number of emails and phone calls to the department of health between early April and May were not answered. On Friday health spokesman Sam Mkhwanazi confirmed questions had been received.
Tecmed has denied any wrongdoing. The company's chief executive Werner Begere said there had been a big opening ceremony when the equipment was installed.
Shortly afterwards the company was asked if it could offer a better price on the maintenance contract.
“We gave them a better price. They paid for 16 months without complaining and then suddenly they stopped paying.”
Begere said that the company wrote letters and made repeated phone calls in a bid to ascertain why there had been no payment.
“They ignored us.”
He said the department then approached “a third party supplier” to service the machines.
“He (the supplier) then approached us for a training course.”
Begere said the department had also approached Varian internationally to service the machines.
“It makes no sense,” he said. “They can do the investigations, but you can't stop the payment because of an investigation which may prove nothing.” - Sapa