Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo with oncology machines at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital. Picture: Gcina Ndwalane/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - KwaZulu-Natal health department head Sibongiseni Dhlomo has been issued with a notice to appear before the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) over the “lack of meaningful progress” in dealing with the provincial oncology crisis.

In a statement issued on Friday evening, the commission said it had issued a “notice to compel KZN health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo” to appear before it.

Dhlomo and his department were singled out in a damning SAHRC report released last year as having “violated the rights of oncology patients at the Addington and Inkosi Albert Luthuli central hospitals to have access to health care services as a result of their failure to apply with applicable norms and standards set out in legislation and policies”.

The report - the result of a complaint laid by the Democratic Alliance in 2016 - also found that the measures the provincial health department told the SAHRC it would put in place to end the crisis were “inadequate and unacceptable”.

The report came in the wake of revelations that Durban’s public oncology services had been stripped of practitioners, with doctors leaving for the private sector because of unsatisfactory working conditions that included a lack of working equipment.

“Ten months later and after exchanges of correspondence and meetings with the KZN provincial department of health, the commission remains concerned at the lack of meaningful progress. The commission has noted the numerous reports that many cancer patients still lack access to timely and appropriate oncology health care and that some may have already died,” the SAHRC said.

Dhlomo had been called to appear on May 14 in terms of the SAHRC Act. At the meeting, he would have to produce “certain information and documentation, as well as answer questions under oath that would be posed to him to enable the commission to decide on what action to take in order to positively impact on this undesirable situation”, it said.

African News Agency/ANA