The senior deputy director of the Transvaal department of hospital services was this week asked to stand down from a commission of inquiry into the conduct of two Baragwanath doctors who criticised conditions at the hospital.
The doctors claimed Dr D Kritzinger – who reportedly said Baragwanath Hospital served a Third World community which was accustomed to sleeping on the floor – could not be an impartial adjudicator.
Kritzinger was sitting on the commission with the director of hospital services, Dr JA Fourie, who was chairing the hearing. When lawyers for the two doctors objected to Kritzinger's presence, Fourie asked his deputy to leave.
Approached for comment yesterday, Kritzinger said he was "not allowed" to speak to the press and referred questions to Fourie. Fourie said he did not think the objections to Kritzinger were "applicable" and said the allegations against his deputy were "unsubstantiated". "But I did not have time to discuss all that nonsense so I asked him whether he would excuse himself," Fourie said.
According to papers before the supreme court, Kritzinger made his comments about Third World patients to the former head of Baragwanath's department of medicine, Professor Leo Schamroth, last year.
Kritzinger's reported remarks have received wide publicity following the row over a letter published in the South African Medical Journal which slammed conditions in Baragwanath's medical wards. The letter was signed by 101 doctors.
Officials of the Department of Hospital Services have reacted strongly to the letter and have demanded the doctors sign apologies or lose their jobs. To date a total of 44 out of 51 signatories to the SAMJ letter have signed the approved apology.
One registrar refused and was told he would be given 24 hours notice. This was not confirmed in writing and he has since been given time to reconsider. Of the other 50 doctors who signed the SAMJ letter, a few have left the department of hospital service and others are on leave.
A Wits spokesman said the university had learned "from a very reliable source that the next step will be disciplinary action against permanent members of staff."
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.