Health MEC Peggy Nkonyeni this week intensified her campaign against doctors at Manguzi Hospital by asking the provincial Treasury to audit certain operations at the hospital.
The Treasury was this week brought in to probe a private donation arranged by Manguzi’s Dr Colin Pfaff to cover an additional antiretroviral drug, AZT, for pregnant women with HIV, known as ‘dual therapy’.
Treasury officials, who asked not to be named, confirmed that they had sent a team to the hospital to investigate the donation for dual therapy at the request of the health department.
The AIDS Law Project’s Mark Heywood, which is acting for the Manguzi doctors, said Nkonyeni was ‘proving to be duplicitous’.
‘On the one hand, she extends an olive branch at her [recent] meeting with the Rural Doctors Association of SA, but at the same time she is secretly initiating a further investigation at Manguzi,’ said Heywood.
Nkonyeni’s dispute with doctors at the hospital appears to stem from the fact that it implemented dual therapy using private funds a few months before it became provincial policy to do so.
Nkonyeni and her spokesperson, Leon Mbangwa, have both said that AZT is toxic.
At a meeting at the hospital in February, Nkonyeni also made disparaging remarks about some rural doctors. This so incensed one of the doctors, Mark Blaylock, that he threw her picture in a dustbin.
Since then, tension between Nkonyeni and the doctors has increased, with Nkonyeni establishing a task team to investigate ‘allegations of racism, ill treatment of staff and abuse of departmental facilities by Dr Blaylock and some doctors operating at some of our rural facilities’.
The task team completed its report in early May but the report has not yet been released. Last week, Nkonyeni told the health portfolio committee of the provincial legislature that the delay was due to the fact that the investigation had since been extended to cover ‘other health facilities and officials’ in the entire Umkhanyakude District.
Ironically, hospitals in the Umkhanyakude district are among the better performers in the province and have a particularly good prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission and baby immunisation programmes.
Despite being one of the poorest health districts in the country, Umkhanyakude had the ninth best uptake of its nevirapine programme out of 53 districts, according to the District Health Barometer. Some 97% of babies in the district are immunised.
The health department failed to respond to media queries on the issue once again. Meanwhile, Nkonyeni is standing as ANC provincial treasurer against businesswoman Sizani Dubazana at the party’s conference this weekend. ‘ Health-e News Service.