'MEC takes helicopter while sick teen suffers'
KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo’s department has defended his use of an emergency helicopter.
Department head Sibongile Zungu told reporters in Pietermaritzburg that Dhlomo had been required to attend to a dispute between a doctor and residents at Manguzi, in Umkhanyakude, in the far north of the province.
“The incident involved a doctor and some young girls who were in the doctor’s room and the community was up in arms,” she said.
“It is with a heavy heart that we find ourselves in a position where we have to hold such a briefing, but the family must bear with us. In the past days there has been a huge media interest on the matter.”
Dhlomo reportedly commandeered the helicopter last week, delaying an injured teenager’s arrival at a Durban hospital.
Asheen Maharaj, 15, was left brain dead following a car crash near Pinetown last Saturday. His parents Ashnee and Ashwin and sister Asheena were killed.
Zungu said the nature of Maharaj’s injuries meant that his chances of survival were slim, and that if he had survived, his life would not have been normal.
She dismissed suggestions that the helicopter had not been made available.
One of the two Emergency Medical Rescue Services helicopters was called off 17 minutes before arriving on the scene, after communication between the paramedics and the helicopter crew, said Zungu.
Dhlomo was not at the briefing as he was attending a cabinet meeting, which takes place every Wednesday.
Zungu said the department had not had contact with Maharaj’s family.
“The department has not been in contact with the family and is not in the habit of doing so.”