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Durban - THE KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health appears to be heading for another legal showdown this week when the head of surgery from the strife-torn Ngwelazana Hospital returns to his job, which has already been given to someone else.

Specialist surgeon Dr Maheshwar Naidoo was suspended twice and then fired last year after a barrage of complaints against him.

He took the matter to the Public Service Bargaining Council, which overturned his dismissal and ordered that he return to work on Monday. 

He was also granted full reinstatement, with 10 months’ back pay, as well as a further three months’ pay, for unfair suspension.

However, during his appeal period, the department found someone else to fill his post and Naidoo said he had no idea what to expect when he returned.

“I hope they won’t try something further to frustrate me,” he said. At the time of his dismissal, he was head of department: general surgery at the hospital, responsible for surgical services in the district.

Naidoo said he was “relieved” that his name had been cleared and said he was one of the few doctors who had decided to remain at the hospital and not leave due to victimisation.

“I knew I was wrongfully accused. It caused me a lot of stress and cost a lot of money. Many other doctors decided to emigrate or go into private practice, but I decided to stay on. I came to Ngwelezana to uplift the hospital and improve things,” he said.

Some of the complaints against him were that he had irregularly given his wife, Dr Nirvana Panday, a job and given medical advice to junior staff over the phone instead of attending to a case, which allegedly led to the death of a patient.

He was blamed for a botched vascular operation on a man’s leg that ended in an amputation. But Naidoo said he was relieved to be cleared of all charges and a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

Spokesperson for the KZN Department of Health Ncumisa Mafunda said: “As a matter of principle, the department does not engage in public discussion regarding matters between the employer and employees. That said, the department wishes to point out it is untrue that the employee in question is back at the hospital. The department is still studying the arbitration award that states he must return to work on April 15.”

DA spokesperson on health Imran Keeka said the department was in an “awkward” position.

He was concerned that it would now take Naidoo’s case to the Labour Court and that the matter would drag on for a few more years.