/ 10 March 2009

Balfour ‘vindicated’ by Shaik reports

Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour and his department felt ”vindicated” by reports that appear to clarify allegations that Schabir Shaik remained in hospital despite behind discharged back to prison.

Since his release last week, questions have been asked of the release of Shaik, African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma’s financial adviser, and whether he was in fact ”gravely ill”.

A report on Sunday said he remained in the Inkosi Albert Luthuli specialist hospital even though he was discharged last year, until his final release on medical parole last week.

Health department spokesperson Leon Mbangwa explained that specialists deduced that neither specialist treatment nor medicine was improving his condition.

He was then referred back to the Westville Prison Hospital.

However, a report had been written to say that the treatment at the prison hospital was ”suboptimal” and that he should be considered for parole.

Concerned that his condition may bring on a stroke or blindness while in the prison hospital waiting for the parole decision, an agreement was made between the Department of Correctional Services and the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital that he remain in the hospital, which is staffed by specialists and can treat any condition.

”He was still a patient there because it was the only place that he could stay at,” said Mbangwa.

He said a doctor’s use of the word ”discharged” in response to a media question on Shaik, was in that context.

He said Shaik had been diagnosed with hypertension at the age of 44, and since a first referral from Westville Prison to the private hospital St Augustines in Durban in April 2007, he had been ”in and out” of hospital.

Patients at the hospital, which treats acute cases and referrals, were usually ”down referred” or discharged, Mbangwa explained.

”In this instance therefore, the attending doctors have explained that they had advised the Department of Correctional Services to consider the down referral of Mr Shaik, not on the basis that he was fit or well but for the Department of Correctional Services to apply its mind based on the report.”

Balfour’s office said: ”Having read the media reports over the weekend and Tuesday’s newspapers, Minister Ngconde Balfour said the department felt vindicated against media allegations that it kept Shaik in hospital despite that Dr Naidoo [the doctor examining him] declared him ready to be ”discharged”.

Meanwhile, the Health Professions Council of South Africa said it would start work right away on a complaint received from the Democratic Alliance on the conduct of the doctors who examined him. — Sapa