mec refuses to back down

Mary Papayya

Mary Papayya

Provincial health MEC Peggy Nkonyeni yesterday said she would not "apologise to anyone" in what she said was her struggle to fight racism and prejudice.

She was responding to calls from the South African Medical Association (Sama), as reported in the media, that she apologise to Sama member, Mark Blaylock, whom she had allegedly referred to as a racist during her budget speech in the provincial legislature recently.

Blaylock is the doctor who threw a picture of Nkonyeni into a dustbin in full view of hospital patients and staff.

Blaylock was suspended without pay for a month after the incident. He discarded Nkonyeni's picture a short while after a colleague, Dr Colin Pfaff, was suspended by hospital authorities for raising funds to buy the anti-retroviral drug AZT to give to pregnant HIV-positive women.

Spokesman Leon Mbangwa said Nkonyeni had not been approached by Sama personally.

"It would have been appropriate for the organisation to contact the MEC before going to the media." Mbangwa said. " She was not personally involved and knew nothing about the action against Blaylock.

"He was suspended without pay for a month by the hospital authorities. The MEC was dragged into the matter because of political pressure.

"All she did was mention the matter during her budget speech and explain why she was putting a task team together."

He said in the matter against Blaylock the hospital authorities had acted on complaints from staff and patients at the hospital.

"When the MEC found out from the media that he had been disciplined she felt the action was harsh and asked that he be reinstated," Mbangwa said.

"But the hospital's area management felt that the MEC's request would set an unfair precedent and that their ruling should stand.

"They also felt that instead of going to the Democratic Alliance and media Blaylock should have appealed internally."

He was asked why Nkonyeni had dispatched an independent task team to investigate Blaylock and Pfaff on Friday if she wasn't involved.

Mbangwa said given the pressure from the DA and Blaylock's supporters, the MEC thought it prudent to appoint the team to investigate complaints that "Blaylock was short-tempered, had allegedly referred to staff as baboons and had operated on a dog while patients were made to wait".