KZN health department reluctant to pay for cancer machine

A Varian Rapid Arc Accelerator
A Varian Rapid Arc Accelerator

The KwaZulu-Natal health department had paid the maintenance contract to keep two state-of-the-art cancer radiotherapy machines operational at Addington Hospital, in Durban.

Werner Bergere, the CEO of Tecmed, the company which installed the two Varian Rapid Arc Linear Accelerators, confirmed on Tuesday that the company received payment on Monday.

On Monday night, KwaZulu-Natal health spokesman Desmond Motha said the department had paid the contract.

The two machines stopped operating in January, after Tecmed refused to service them, claiming that it had not been paid since March 2012.

There is only one other machine of this kind in the country.

The machines in Durban were installed by Tecmed in 2010 after it was awarded a R120 million tender, which included a R33m maintenance contract over five years. The maintenance contract was later reduced to R26m.

By the time the machines stopped working, Addington’s oncology department, which receives patients from across the province, had cut its waiting time for treatment from eight months to two weeks.

The department claimed it suspended the contract because of corruption involved in the tender. Tecmed denied any wrongdoing.

The department filed two complaints with the police in May and July 2010, but no charges have been brought yet.

Patients from Addington have been transferred to the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, which has three radiotherapy machines.

Waiting times at the hospital have reportedly grown to between four and five months.

KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said payments would be made on a month-to-month basis pending ongoing investigations

Dhlomo and health department head Dr Sibongile Zungu have denied putting patients’ lives at risk.

The SA Human Rights Commission said last week that it was investigating a complaint against the department, lodged by Addington’s oncology department’s former head Professor Amo Jordaan.

Jordan quit the post he had occupied since 1981 in anger at the department’s failure to pay the maintenance contract.

He previously said the machines reduced the amount time a patient received radiotherapy and were much more accurate in dealing with tumours. – Sapa