health hazards

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

The heads of senior health personnel at several key KwaZulu-Natal hospitals and clinics will soon roll

Some senior staff are allegedly part of illegal consortia selling stolen state medication and other medical consumables to private pharmacies. The provincial department of health initiated an investigation several months ago following heavy expenditure at one hospital under suspicion.

The department has allegedly accumulated an over-expenditure of R2,73billion. Some of this expenditure has been attributed to these suspected fraudulent activities. This financial year, the department is projecting an over-expenditure of R1,698 billion.

While details of the actual operations and consortia are not being made public at this stage, the department believes that such consortia have been in existence for several years.

"This practice puts the lives of patients in danger. While government expenditure increases, some private pharmacists and businesses are thriving," said provincial health spokesman Leon Mbangwa.

A source within the department told Sowetan that state hospitals are plunged "into corruption because of mismanagement and the irresponsible actions of certain senior staff. We have tried to inform the relevant people in the department about these illegal activities. Hospitals lose millions when medication is sold to private pharmacists at cheaper prices".

A Sowetan investigation shows that commonly dispensed medication such as headache, cold and flu medicines and several ARV cocktails are sold to private chemists and businesses.

Mbangwa said the department is still trying to quantify its exact losses. He said several hospitals are under investigation, but because of the sensitive nature of the investigation, the department is not in a position to reveal the hospitals or the pharmacies involved.

"We will make arrests soon. These people are criminals who are abusing money meant to deliver critical services to our people. The law will take its course. The officials involved will be charged with fraud, theft and corruption."

He said they are improving security around the access and exit points of all the facilities under investigation.

"We are also installing computerised stock management technology which will help to monitor stock levels, expiry dates and the shelf life of medicines."