KwaZulu-Natal health department head Dr Sifiso Mtshali. Photo: ANA

Johannesburg - KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu announced on Thursday that the province's head of health department, Dr Sifiso Mtshali, has resigned amid the cancer patients' crisis and the scandal of repairs to oncology machines.

This comes after the provincial government recently embarked on a major intervention to address issues arising from management and administration in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health.  

Mchunu said that he had been in ongoing consultations with the provincial executive, particularly MEC for Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, and the MEC for Finance Belinda Scott, in a bid to resolve the issue of non-repairs to oncology machines.

"Among the issues considered by us were the issue of repairs to oncology machines, and the appointment of KZN Oncology to do so. Legal action has been taken by the Department of Health to set aside the agreement concluded with KZN Oncology, and to reclaim funds already paid," Mchunu said in a statement.

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"I felt that it would be prudent to suspend Dr Mtshali, the Head of the Department of Health, pending the outcome of inquiries. Dr Mtshali has not admitted the allegations against him, but offered to resign if Provincial Government had lost confidence in him."  

Last month, Mtshali was suspended over the province's oncology crisis which has led to the death of an undisclosed number of cancer patients and seen an exodus of oncologists from the province's payroll. He was appointed as the head of department in June 2015 after running Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital.

It has been alleged that the appointment of KZN Oncology to repair oncology machines at Addington Hospital in Durban was irregular and illegal. The allegations had attracted wide-spread publicity and considerable negative press and public criticism.

Mchunu said that as the executive authority responsible for heads of department, he felt it would be prudent to accept Mtshali's resignation given the seriousness of the allegations, as well as to avoid further legal and forensic costs being incurred, and to bring finality to the issue.

"I have discussed the matter informally with the MEC for Finance and the MEC for Health, and it was agreed that it was in the interests of all concerned to bring the matter to a speedy conclusion and to restore stability to health. On this basis, I agreed to accept the Head of Department's resignation," Mchunu said.