KwaZulu-Natal’€™s health department should immediately reinstate the doctor suspended this week for throwing a picture of the Health MEC into a dustbin.

This is according to a letter sent to the MEC yesterday by the Rural Doctors Association of SA (Rudasa) and the SA HIV Clinicians Society.

The two associations said that the suspension for a month without pay of Dr Mark Blaylock, chief medical officer of Manguzi Hospital in the far north of KwaZulu-Natal, was ‘€œridiculous’€.

Blaylock threw Nkonyeni’€™s picture into the bin after she remarked during a visit to his hospital that rural doctors ‘€œdo not care about people. It is all about profit’€.

He later apologised for his ‘€œinappropriate action’€, saying that the MEC’€™s ‘€œextremely unfair and slanderous statement’€ had caused his ‘€œirrational impulse’€.

Rudasa chairperson Dr Bernard Gaede said that Health MEC Peggy Nkonyeni’€™s remarks about rural doctors had made it ‘€œvery difficult to recruit doctors for rural areas or to motivate rural doctors’€.

At the time, Rudasa sought an apology from the MEC but she refused to engage with the organisation, other than to ask Rudasa to prove she had made the remarks.

Meanwhile, the Treatment Action Campaign has called on the public to send protest letters directly to the MEC and ANC President Jacob Zuma, saying her action against Blaylock was ‘€œwithout good reason’€

‘€œMortality among young adults and infants has massively increased in the last decade. It is a province desperately short of health-care resources, particularly doctors willing to work in rural areas,’€ said the TAC yesterday.

‘€œThe ANC and government have much work to do to repair the damaged relations with HIV clinicians and health professionals due to the past decade of state-supported AIDS denialism, particularly those who give up privileges and opportunities to work in under-serviced rural areas with disadvantaged communities. The equation seems to be this: you insult an MEC and we suspend you without pay to ‘€œteach you a lesson’€ ‘€“ one less doctor for one month, which almost certainly means lives lost in Manguzi,’€ said the TAC.

However, health department spokesperson Chris Maxon said while the department did not believe patients would suffer the most from Blaylock’€™s suspension, he had the right to appeal against the action.

‘€œWe want to make it clear that the Department respects the powers of institutional managers to act against conduct that they believe is detrimental to the reputation of the institution and the Department,’€ said Maxon.

‘€œFor this reason, we will protect them from any intimidation or undue pressure that seeks to make them deviate in their quest to uphold and expect proper conduct from all public servants, with favour or fear.’€

Earlier this year, the KZN health department charged another Manguzi doctor, Dr Colin Pfaff, with misconduct after he had raised donor funds to add a second antiretroviral drug, AZT, to his treatment regime for pregnant women with HIV.

The charges were withdrawn after national protests against. However, Nkonyeni was clearly unhappy about having to back down as she recently described Pfaff and his colleagues as ‘€œopportunists’€ involved in ‘€œwanton behaviour’€ and ‘€œanarchy’€.

Ironically, this was at the launch of the introduction of ‘€œdual therapy’€ ‘€“ the addition of  AZT to the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission ‘€“ in the province, something Pfaff had already done to help prevent

Rudasa’€™s letter has also been sent to the head of the ANC, Jacob Zuma; head of the ANC’€™s health desk Dr Zweli Mkhize and the head of the SA National AIDS Council, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Healthworkers this week spoke about the MEC promoting a ‘€œcult of the personality’€ in the province, emblazoning all departmental stationery with her picture, including a 12-page calendar featuring the MEC on virtually every page. ‘€“ Health-e News Service.