Doc who supported Nozizwe suspended

A doctor who supported former deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge’s view that the health situation at Frere Hospital constituted a crisis has been suspended.

Dr Nokuzola Ntshona on Tuesday confirmed to the South African Press Association (Sapa) that Luvuyo Mosana, the CEO of the East London Hospital Complex which includes Frere and Cecilia Makiwane Hospitals, had suspended her on Monday.

“He said I was being suspended for talking to the media,” she said.

Ntshona, who at one stage wrote a letter to President Thabo Mbeki highlighting the dire situation at the hospital, said she was surprised by the reason given for her suspension.

“It was he, Mosana, who ordered me to make a presentation to the National Assembly’s health committee during its visit to the hospital last week.

“I never invited those journalist who reported on my presentation, they came with the committee,” she said.

In her letter addressed to Mbeki, Ntshona, who is also the medical superintendent for the complex, accused Health Minister Manto Tshabala-Msimang of turning a blind eye to the crisis at the Frere Hospital.

Leaked letter

Her letter was subsequently leaked to the Daily Dispatch which published stories suggesting that staffing and equipment shortages at the hospital had led to hundreds of baby deaths every year.

“Whoever leaked that letter to the media—it was definitely not me,” she said.

Ntshona still maintains that everything she said in the letter was true.

“All these things about the serious staff and equipment shortages at Frere, and the deaths of babies as a result—it’s the truth.
This is what the deputy minister saw during her unannounced visit, and hence her description of the situation as one of national emergency,” she said.

She accused the provincial health department of a cover up.

Impressing the minister

“When they heard that the minister, Tshabalala-Msimang, would be visiting the hospital, they took some of the hospital equipment from Cecilia Makiwane Hospital and put it at Frere to impress the minister,” she said.

Ntshona said provincial authorities did not inform her about the decision to remove equipment from Cecilia Makiwane.

“I’m the hospital superintendent, and yet I was not informed about all these things. I only came to know about it after the equipment had been moved,” she said.

Following her visit to the hospital, Tshabalala-Msimang refuted both Madlala-Routledge and Ntshona’s claims about conditions at Frere Hospital.

Meanwhile the Democratic Alliance (DA) on Tuesday criticised the provincial health department’s decision to suspend Ntshona, accusing the government of harassing the “wrong person”.

Mike Waters, the DA’s health spokesperson, said the party was appalled by Ntshona’s suspension.

“Once again, the government has tried to intimidate the brave people who are prepared to take on the government over its mismanagement of the public health sector, while those who are responsible for the problems in the first place retain their large salaries, plush offices and expensive perks,” he said. - Sapa

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